Review of photos by Manchester photographer Jon Parker Lee

Jon Parker Lee has been active as a photographer in Manchester since 1993. An exhibition in November/December 2013 at the basement venue 2022 in Manchester’s Northern Quarter celebrated his 20 years in the photography business.

I went to the opening night and was really impressed with the variety, style and high technical quality of the photographs. He told me he had picked them at random using a pin, but to me these photos look like they have been carefully chosen

I’ve singled out ten of them and I’m going to write a critique on each one. Hopefully this will inspire photography students to learn from Jon’s work and to go out, experiment and develop a style and flair of their own.


As I often say ‘try to capture the intrinsic quality of the subject’ and the here, the portrait of the late Seamus Heaney seems to do just that. The poet stares with narrow eyes into the camera, white haired and dressed in a suit and tie. He has gravitas and the photo reflects that, with its dramatic lighting from the upper right, casting deep shadows.

Attention is concentrated on the face by the use of a wide aperture – the camera was set to f1.4 – throwing the background out of focus. The wide aperture is probably essential as the light is low, and the background is almost, but not quite black. It’s just a series of blurs that could be a wall or a wooden cabinet. The setting is Manchester University.

Most interestingly, the subject is placed off centre to the right. The empty area to the left leaves space for the poetic imagination.JON_PARKER_LEE_EXHIBITIONA similar attitude towards space can be seen in the portrait of the author Martin Amis. He stands on the left with a serious expression set against a striped wooden background . The light is coming from the right, casting deep shadows to the left. The picture is not very sharp. The aperture was f1.4. Only the eyes are in focus. As no flash was used, there are no catch lights in the eyes, giving an enigmatic quality.JPL-Millibands

The photo of the Miliband brothers at the Labour Party conference was taken under difficult circumstances. This was just after the moment when Ed was voted party leader. The photographer had to act quickly in order to be in the right position to get shot. There was no time for composition or lighting but the photo still catches something very important. The hands are more expressive than the faces. To capture an image like this you have to be able to move quickly and you must be on top of the technical side of photography. The aperture was f4 and shutter speed 1/80th of a second.JON_PARKER_LEE_EXHIBITION

To capture the essence of the subject you often have to capture the essence of their working environment. Jon photographed music stars Amadou and Mariam at the New Century Hall before their Concert in the Dark at the Manchester International Festival in 2009. Jon has pictured them small in the frame, placed against an almost totally black background. Only a small amount of light shines on them. They are both wearing dark glasses, and most of the picture is black. A paparazzi style photo taken outside the venue with a flash would not have captured the essence of the subject, as this image does.


The photo of the lead actor in the Manchester Passion play 2007 was also taken under difficult circumstances. It was near the end of the rehearsal, actor and crew were tired, but the photo is still very successful. The subject is illuminated from above by flash and the crucifix behind ls lit up from inside, providing some rim lighting on his hair and shirt. Again John has placed the subject off centre, and look how the left hand side of the head is placed midway over the left hand side of the crucifix. Even with a shot taken in the space of a couple of seconds, composition is all important. There is just about the right amount of light falling on the ground. The control of light in this image is very good indeed.


George Best tribute image from 2005 shows the potential of a ‘a photo within the photo’ but what really gives the image a lot of power is the use of diagonal shadows at the top and the bottom. The piece of chewing gum – or is it a squashed piece of Blu-Tack – is in keeping with the improvised nature of the subject.


I’ve picked out the photo of Gill Wright, project manager at Victoria Baths because I know her. Ths setting is actually quite untypical of the Baths as the changing cabins don’t normally look like this. A single light is set up inside a cubicle in the main pool. Gill sits inside, maybe a little self-consciously, with a smile on her face. She is very slightly off centre which could be said to break the rules of composition. Actually they are not rules, they’re guidelines. Overall, the image works well.


I love the photo of road markings on the Mancunian Way from 2004 This is the closest subject matter to mine. The viewpoint is from above, making the road look like a wall and turning the letters into graffiti lit up by the orange street lamps. The line on the right looks like an exclamation mark without the dot. Without doubt, a strong statement about Manchester,


The vigil to remember the victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is lit by just a few candles and little else. John has managed to achieve a picture that is sharp and without any blur due to movement. There is just the right amount of lighting on the faces of the three people in the foreground including Neville Ball and Betty Tebbs. Compositionally, they make three points of a triangle. Betty Tebbs, who is wearing the antinuclear necklace, is the central focus of the image. A point-and-shoot photographer would probably have just used flash. This photograph shows why you often have to use available light to capture the true essence of a scene. It is not easy to achieve but Jon has managed it here.

So those are my thoughts. If you’re serious about photography there is no substitute for going along to an exhibition and studying top quality framed prints by a skilled, experienced and imaginative photographer – like Jon Parker Lee! The exhibition finished in early December 2013, but you can keep up to date with Jon Parker Lee by going to his website

Ian Wylie @ianwylie London
@AidanORourkeCP Thanks Aidan. Great photos enhanced by really interesting comments.

Liverpool Then and Now – photos by Aidan O’Rourke

Book cover LIverpool Then and Now

The changing face of the city has been a dominant theme in my photography since the early days.  It was fitting therefore that I was commissioned by Anova books in 2011 to take the ‘now’ photos for the book Liverpool Then and Now.

I was presented with a list of ‘then’ photographs drawn from various sources including the Liverpool Records Office and Anova’s own collection of heritage images. My task was to find the locations and take the ‘now’ photo from as close as possible to the viewpoint of the old photo.

Soon I had embarked on a fascinating journey of discovery through the Liverpool area as far as Southport in the north to Speke in the south.

I also crossed over the River Mersey to visit locations on the Wirral, and in the first half of September I took photographs from Seacombe ferry terminal of visiting cruise liners docked by the Pier Head. One of these images appears in the opening pages of the book.

Liverpool Pier Head and Mersey Ferry

Locations featured in Liverpool Then and Now include: the Royal Liver Building, the Albert Dock, Lord Street, Lime Street station, the Anglican Cathedral, Bold Street, The Strand and many more.

I also discovered many lesser known places including the former observatory on the Wirral, now a private residence, the Liverpool Institute, now LIPA, the Florence Institute in Toxteth, and the exact point where the East Lancs Road begins. The old photo depicts the opening ceremony. It took me a while to discover where it had been taken but eventually I found it.

Some of the places depicted in the old photographs were impossible to locate and had to be omitted.

And I can reveal one location is wrong! The fountain I photographed in Sefton Park is not the one in the old photo.

About three months after publication I was walking in Sefton Park and discovered that the fountain I should have photographed is the one next to the Peter Pan statue in the middle of the park. No one has noticed so far!

One of my favourite views was from Everton Brow I did the panorama and the editors decided to include it even though that old photo wasn’t a panorama.

View from Everton Brow

In many places I found the people I met to be very warm and friendly, for example the man who lives near the ‘Florrie’ or Florence Institute who saw me taking a photograph,  came out to tell me all about it, and gave me some leaflets.

The staff at the Town Hall were also very welcoming and helpful, and I was given a guided tour around the Liver Building and the former Speke Airport terminal, now a hotel.

Photographing Liverpool Then and Now was a great experience and I really got to know Liverpool very well indeed.

I was very proud when in mid-2012 I found the book, ‘my’ book, on the shelf in the bookshop at Lady Lever Art Gallery. I have also seen it on sale at the Walker Art Gallery, Waterstones, in the Albert Dock and at the Museum of Liverpool.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Liverpool Then and Now from, please follow the link to the right. If you’d like a signed copy for yourself or as a gift please get in touch.

Part way through the project, local author and historian Mike Royden was commissioned to write the text. His descriptions are very interesting, and demonstrate his deep knowledge of the city. The team at Anova Books in London – editors Frank Hopkinson and David Salmo – did a great job. The layout is excellent and the quality of reproduction of the photographs is very good indeed.

I am very proud to have helped to create this visually fascinating book on what is arguably the UK’s most visually fascinating city.


This billboard advert for DHL featuring an imaginary combination of Tower Bridge London and Brooklyn Bridge New York was displayed around the UK during mid-2007. The ad makes use of a skilful piece of digital montage, combining the two bridges into one, and expressing the idea of the UK and the US being brought close together, thanks to DHL’s service.

I’ve featured the image on this site since 2007 and it has around some interest. It is a very impressive piece of image manipulation. Unfortunately the copyright is not mine. Some time I must try to produce a similar image of Tower Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge myself


City Photo Walks – Photographic Walking Tours in Manchester and Liverpool

Photography tours in Manchester and Liverpool city centre with Aidan O’Rourke

My Photographic Walking Tour is now a well-established event that has been enjoyed by scores of people from north west England and beyond. Come on a leisurely walk around the city, benefit from a photography lesson ‘on the hoof’, learn about photography, get constructive feedback, meet new people. The cost of the three hour photo walk is £35. This includes your ‘goody bag’ with handouts and a copy of my ‘should-be-patented’ photography crib card.

Here’s what we will cover:

  • We will go on a short walk through the city centre stopping at a few points
  • The photo walk lasts three hours
  • Get my concentrated lesson on aperture, shutter speed and ISO
  • Learn how you need to use only a handful of controls on your camera
  • Pester me with questions as much as you like (on photography!
  • I dislike jargon and always try my utmost to explain things carefully.
  • If you learn one new thing it will be worth it. Actually I can guarantee you will learn at least several new things.
  • Get ‘over-the-shoulder’ feedback from your friendly and dedicated photography tutor
  • Get tips on composition and what makes a good (and bad!) photo
  • Pick up basic but useful tips on how to take better photos
  • Take photos of architecture, statues, trees, flowers, anything, discover new photo opportunities, impress me!
  • You will receive information sheets and my exposure crib card, which you should keep with you at all times!
  • We will Look critically at so-called ‘pro’ photos on display in the street and learn from their mistakes!
  • Meet nice people! The ones who come on the Photo Walking Tours are very nice!

If you’re more experienced, you can help someone less experienced and in doing so, reinforce your own knowledge of photography.

  • Link up with me on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus and I will highlight and write positive feedback on your best photos.
  • The meeting point is at the front entrance to the station: Lime Street in Liverpool (top of the ramp, not near the taxis), Piccadilly in Manchester (top of the Approach, not near the taxis).
  • Make sure you have my mobile number 07779 290082 on your phone. Please text me on the day or the day before to confirm your attendance. Also check my Twitter feed to confirm all is okay.

Many people have been on the walking tour and the feedback has been very positive:

Dilys Thompson ‏@DilysBT
@AidanORourkeCP Thanks Aidan – really enjoyed it and promise to try and steer clear of my auto setting from now on!

Important practical points

    • I usually run one walk a month in Manchester one in Liverpool. Dates on the home page
    • Meet at Piccadilly or Lime St Station, front entrance – easy to find and get to.
    • Tour starts at 2pm finishes around 5pm (some tours may have alternative times)
    • Before setting off, text me!
    • Bring any camera, whether a tiny, cheap compact, or a high end DSLR, or even no camera at all!
    • This is an all-weather event! Come in suitable clothes wearing a good pair of shoes.
    • A tripod is not usually necessary but bring one if you like, and especially if it is going to be dark by the end of the walk
    • Wide angle lenses may be better for buildings but telephoto will be useful too!
    • We will watch out for each other, but remember I am not responsible for your own safety.
    • If you become separated from the group, please phone or text me. Make sure you have 07779 290082 on your phone
    • I will try to keep to a max of 10 to 12 people though occasionally it might be more
    • To book, choose a date from ‘Upcoming Events’ then email, text or phone me
      Pay in advance or on the day
    • Cost: £35 per person
    • Special offers and discounts are available from time to time, please enquire.

Thanks for such a great walk. It made me look at the city with new eyes.
We both had an interesting and informative time.

Edward Kilpatrick

Voucher holders please note: Your voucher will run out on a certain date. However, as long as you contact me by that date, redeem your voucher and make a booking, you can come on any walking tour. Just get in contact using the Contact Form. You can also e-mail me or phone or text 07779 290082

Hello world!

The blog is reactivated – I’m starting again from scratch! But I’ll also be adding some archive material as well. Blog posts will be added from time to time. I’m not a very dedicated blogger.

Here is the final version of the trailer of my book and film project.