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I’ve always felt there were similarities and parallels between Manchester and New York. I said this once in conversation with a guy and he replied ‘No, there’s no similarity whatsoever. No connections, totally different cities’. I was proven right however, when in 2013, filmmakers arrived in Manchester and turned Dale Street into 1940s New York. It was chosen because of its similarity to New York.
The street was sealed off, they brought in classic American automobiles, police cars, shop frontages, lamp posts, signs, fire hydrants, all to create a fantasy of 1940s America in the heart of Manchester. They were making ‘Captain America The First Avenger’. They also filmed in Stanley Dock Liverpool.
So there’s no doubt that there are echoes of New York in Manchester, especially in the Northern Quarter. The former warehouse on Newton Street called The Bradley, now an Easy Hotel, has a similarity to the Flatiron Building.
Many of the red-brick façades in the Northern Quarter were built around the same time as those in Lower Manhattan, in the late 19th century. With the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894, trade flourished, architectural styles spread across the Atlantic, people migrated, mostly in a westerly direction.
The metal fire escapes on many buildings in the centre of Manchester are very reminiscent of those in New York. The building on the corner of Hilton Street and Newton Street, now Hatter’s Hostel looks similar to buildings along Broadway and 5th Avenue, New York, not Manchester.
That inner cutaway with the windows and yellow tiles seems very Manhattan-esque to me. I can imagine a view over the Lower East Side and Midtown.
There were strong trading links between the United States and Manchester in the 19th century. Manchester was famous as Cottonopolis and cotton was shipped here. The Abraham Lincoln statue commemorates the president’s gratitude for the solidarity of the people of Manchester during the American Civil War and their help in the struggle to end slavery.
I love the rear façades of the buildings, which were constructed purely for commercial intent, and yet there is a beauty about them. With their stepped back façades, The Birchin and neighbouring buildings, near Tib Street, remind me of those in Lower Manhattan. They were later altered and a new building has appeared in front of them, so that link is gone.
I think Manchester’s Northern Quarter with its bars and street life has a strong similarity with Greenwich Village. There’s a building with pillars on Oldham Street that reminds me a little of the Apollo Theater in Harlem. On Great Ancoats Street the cast-iron façade of Hudson Buildings is very reminiscent of those in Lower Manhattan. Even the name carries an echo of New York. It was built around 1924, when there was vigorous trade via the ship canal.
The American Ford Motor Company set up a car factory in Trafford Park, which was the first purpose-built industrial park in the world. Cars were built there from 1911 to 1931, when production moved to Dagenham. The US company Westinghouse set up a subsidiary in Britain and opened a factory in Trafford Park. It later became part of the British company Metropolitan Vickers.
The façades on Swan Street near Rochdale Road are classic New York, even more so since the arrival of the new skyscraper Angel Gardens. That skyscraper is small by American standards but enhances the similarity to high rise cities like New York and others. Nearby is Manchester’s first skyscraper, the CIS tower, which was inspired by the Inland Steel Building in Chicago.
After the destruction of the Co-op buildings on Miller Street during the Manchester Blitz, a delegation went to the United States to look for ideas for a new building. In 1962, the CIS tower was opened. I’ll feature it in more detail in another article and video.
When I visited the Inland Steel Building in Chicago, the similarity was obvious, though, in scale, it’s closer to the neighbouring New Century Hall, which was built at the same time as the CIS building.
Nearby High Street, in the Northern Quarter, was transformed for another movie set in New York. That movie was the 2006 remake of ‘Alfie’ starring Jude Law. It unfortunately was not successful.
As with Captain America, signs and cars were imported. The Northern Quarter provided a perfect mini-Manhattan film stage at a fraction of the cost of filming in the reallocation.
As a child, I longed to live to America, an impossible dream, so I imagined Manchester as a kind of Manhattan or an imaginary American city. I listened to Northern Soul, a style of American R’n’B that was especially popular in Manchester and other parts of Northern England, hence the name. At Twisted Wheel club all-nighters, the records were almost exclusively 60s and 70s Black American. Later generations of Manchester DJs also found inspiration in New York and Chicago.
When I eventually arrived in New York to spend a summer working there, I felt as if I’d already been there. I lived on 9th Avenue and 34th St. The view of 10th Avenue from the High Line by 14th street reminds me strongly of a similar view from the partially disused railway bridge over Deansgate. That’s quite a coincidence as it’s planned to convert the nearby disused railway viaduct into Manchester’s High Line.
There are other architectural parallels. The Jefferson Market Library in New York was originally built as a courthouse from 1874 to 1877. Manchester’s Minshull Street Police Courts were built from 1868-71.
Minshull Street is at the end of Canal Street and in New York, there’s also a Canal Street and let’s not forget New York bar near Canal Street Manchester. Both New York and Manchester have internationally-known gay scenes.
Is it a coincidence that New York’s UN Building and Manchester’s City Tower, former Sunley Tower look similar? The Chrysler Building was completed in 1930, Manchester’s Northcliffe House on Deansgate, was built in 1931 and demolished in 2003. There are even parallels with Manchester’s Alexandra Park and New York’s Central Park, which are both overlooked by imposing buildings, St Bede’s College Manchester and the Dakota building Manhattan.
Over in the area known as The Village, in Trafford Park, by Westinghouse Road and Europa Way, you’ll find First Avenue, Second Avenue, Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue Fifth Avenue and then Fifth Street, Sixth Street, Eighth Street, Tenth Street and Eleventh Street.
These street names date back to the time of those American factories I mentioned earlier in this article. The magnificent Trafford Park Hotel stands empty. There are shades of Detroit-style decay. And at the centre of the Village on Third Avenue and Eleventh Street, you’ll find some nice places to eat and a strong community spirit. Even the corrugated iron St Antony’s Church for me has overtones of New England though this style of corrugated iron church originated over here.
So if you disregard the chip shop, the double yellow lines, the broad Manchester accents, the cars and trucks driving on the left, the cheese sandwiches with grated cheese in them and the double-decker buses – you’d swear you were in Manhattan or maybe Brooklyn! Well I think so, with a bit of imagination!
The new Manchester skyline has been called ‘Manc-hattan’ and the towers of Deansgate Gardens recall the Twin Towers, but is it true to say that Manchester is a mini-Manhattan? No, probably not, but there are undoubtedly forgotten echoes, influences, clues and connections between Manchester and New York as well as the wider continent of North America, if you care to look for them. And anything that helps us to look at our surroundings in a new way and to bridge the miles and the years between us and those distant events, people and places, can only be a good thing.
This video, Building Boom in Manchester 2021 follows on from my 2020 video on the same subject.
This time, I take a bike tour around the east, north and west side of the city centre, exploring and discovering the new developments which are under construction there.
I haven’t covered every development, but I’ve featured the ones which seem to me to be the most striking and sometimes controversial.
We start on Great Ancoats Street, the street which is probably seen more changes than any other and has been transformed from a rather down at heel part of Manchester to one where there is new construction going on everywhere, completely changing the character of the area.
We visit the New Islington district with an interesting assortment of apartment buildings constructed next to newly created stretches of canal and a newly built man-made lake in the middle of the city.
We stop off at the sad remains of Grade II Ancoats Dispensary which I featured in the previous video and there is news.
The building will be turned into affordable apartments, which ironically may not be affordable enough for local residents. Construction is set to go ahead sometime in the near future.
I feature the Smiths Arms pub in Ancoats which sadly was demolished, despite a high profile campaign to save it. I feel it could have been retained and would have added something valuable to the square, with all its restaurants and bars.
In Liverpool Ma Egerton’s pub was retained, despite the construction of a very large new student residence behind it.
In Angel Meadow, once a very rundown area, two new apartment buildings are under construction. Then we visit for Angel Square, part of the corporative NOMA district of the city centre. We take a quick look at the Ducie Bridge pub which despite a campaign, was demolished to make way for this new development.
Next to Victoria Station a major new development is under construction on what seems like a very small section of land. On the other side of Victoria, we find the construction site of the new Manchester College campus.
Continuing along Trinity Way, construction of a tall building is currently paused, due to allegations of fraud. Find out more in the video.
We continue past Collier Street Baths, still standing derelict behind scaffolding. We cycle past a new development on Chapel Street, named the filaments, then next to the River Irwell, the development named New Bailey and across the river, the construction site of The Factory, a new arts centre with sophisticated facilities. It will be the home of the Manchester International Festival.
After a quick look at the Potato Wharf development, we enter Castlefield and take a look at Castle Wharf, a luxury apartment building that contrasts in height and colour with the surrounding buildings within the Castlefield conservation district.
Then we take a look at one of the major construction projects currently in progress. It’s Elizabeth Tower on Chester Road, overlooking the Hulme roundabout.
It will reportedly have one of the highest swimming pools in Europe. And finally, we revisit Deansgate Gardens, which I featured in the 2020 video.
I Include my photograph of Deansgate Gardens, which was kindly liked on Instagram by architects SimpsonHaugh.
At the end of the video, I ask some questions and invite people to answer in the comments. As promised in the video, I am going to share what I really think:
Is Manchester City Centre going to be a place for everyone to live or just a high-earning minority.
The apartment boom is targeted towards high-earning younger professionals in the city centre. It’s profit-driven and so it looks like Manchester is going to be like a small Manhattan. That’s part of a video I have planned.
Are enough affordable apartments being built?
No. Developers are encouraged or required to include affordable apartments so that lower paid key workers can live there but many neglect to do this.
Is most new construction of architectural merit or are they just faceless, clinical new apartment buildings?
There are some interesting new apartment developments but many others are of a mediocre design.
Should we do more to remember Manchester as it was?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve always thought this, it’s my main motivation for doing what I do, both in my old Eyewitness website and in my AidanEyewitness YouTube channel today.
Should older buildings such as pubs be saved, no matter what?
That’s a difficult question. They should be saved if possible but it’s not always possible. The Smiths Arms should definitely have been retained as it’s a part of the character and identity of Ancoats and helps us to remember Ancoats as it was. The Ducie Bridge, well that would have been much more difficult to incorporate. The ‘footballer property developers’ originally wanted to demolish The Abercromby pub for their original, disastrous Bootle Street development, but after a citizens’ campaign, they relented.
And that was my tour of the new construction around Manchester City centre and I intend to go on another tour maybe next year we’ll see how things have developed.
And I can recommend a great video by Chris A about the district of Chapeltown, currently being transformed.
Watch this wonderful song and video with archive images of Chapeltown, including a few of mine. It’s by musician Chris A.
Article about Limerick in one day to appear here
Some images on this page were lost during the transfer to this new web page. I hope to place them in the text again.
By the time the ‘Swinging Sixties’ came along, the fashionable (and pretentious) photographer figure became a familiar stereotype. Even now, when an aspiring amateur reaches for his camera and puts on photographer’s airs, people say “Huh, who do you think you are, David Bailey?” Born in 1938, he is one of the few photographers that most people have heard of, and he is still active now.
(Fig. 16 above, lower right) is a casual, almost snapshot-like image, showing a model standing on the side of a New York street at a pedestrian crossing. We see the run-down, and fashionably grimy chic of Manhattan at street level, with lots of signs and lettering. A passer-by has been caught awkwardly on the right hand side of the lamp post. The model, of course, is Jean Shrimpton, in her celebrated ‘A-line’ pose, to match the shape of the outfit. This must be one of the most famous poses a model has ever struck, and came to symbolise a look of the early sixties.In this picture (above left) taken in January 1965 by David Bailey, another quintessential face of that decade is portrayed.. What it doesn’t say about the clothes, it makes up for in the tantalising glimpse we get of Swinging London. The camera is at a ‘swinging’ angle, and fashionable Hampstead Hill is seen silhouetted late in the day, with a tiny figure on a bench just visible.
Marianne Faithfull, looks into the camera with a distant expression, the stray wisp of hair and billowing dress, along with the clouds, alluding to a windy day. The diagonals make for a dynamic image, but it’s also dark and brooding, a deliberate effect done, I think, at darkroom stage. From the look of the clouds, the sun would appear to be fairly high in the sky.
Perhaps our pre-conceived notions about ‘The Sixties’ influence the way we interpret a photograph such as this – the photographer himself was annoyed at being labelled as the photographer of ‘Swinging London’:
“I always hated the King’s Road, really the whole thing was the creation of Time magazine” (quoted in Appearances, page 218)
I can’t help feeling though that this photograph is a window into a place and time I was too young to fully experience, and I wish I could climb through into it!
Quite a different vision from David Bailey, much more planned and controlled, is that of the Japanese photographer Hiro, who came to New York in 1954.
In this image (Fig. 18 lower centre left) we can seen an effect of disorientation caused by the raised viewpoint. The shapes of the clothes are like abstract patterns, or perhaps the flowing drapery of Japanese woodblock print. It reminds us of traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e art. Only the false eyelashes of the right model allow us to date this picture, which is otherwise timeless.
The lower left picture (Fig. 17 above) is also by Hiro. The striking thing about it is the oval shaped area of projected light shining onto on the model’s face from the side, and the areas of fluorescent colour in other parts of the image. The pose is initially confusing, and has the effect of an abstract pattern. Hiro uses very sophisticated design principles in his photographs of fashion models.
One of the more controversial photographers of recent times is Helmut Newton, born in Berlin, Germany, in 1920. He received his training in Berlin, but spent time in Australia and Singapore. He held an Australian passport and lived in Monaco and Los Angeles where he was recently killed in a car accident.
“Few photographers have managed to polarise the art scene on such a regular basis as Helmut Newton. It is split into those who are his fans, and admire his photographs, and his embittered opponents, who denigrate him as a fashionable passing craze, or as a woman-hater.”
Quoted in ‘Photographie des 20. Jahrhunderts’
His pictures, mostly set in expensive hotels, or on the streets of the chic capitals of Europe, feature tall, long-limbed women, often nude, some androgynous. Each picture features an action or situation, inviting viewers to imagine the before and after for themselves. This picture (Fig. 20 below, right) features a woman standing pensively in a man’s suit. There is a feeling of sexual ambiguity, with the slicked back hair, reminiscent of Berlin in the 1920s.
Like most of his images, this is in black and white, and the film is quite grainy, giving a slightly harsh, unromanticised effect. The Parisian back street is full of empty atmospheric eeriness. Perhaps the person has stepped out of the rear entrance of a hotel, or some other establishment, to have a cigarette and take a break, from what? What is she thinking about? And why is she dressed like a man?
The famous image by Helmut Newton of he chauffeur kissing his lady employer is tastefully scandalous in nature. The two have them have descended to a lower level, both figuratively and literally, and the photographer as voyeur catches them as if he were just passing.
The text forms a visual and linguistic pun too: The chauffeur is providing a different ‘service’ from the one on his job contract. ‘Servicios’ in Spanish means ‘toilets’ and this shot might have been made in Spain.
The controversial nature of the type of subject matter – sophisticated women, fashionable upper class milieu, raises questions concerning sexual identity, class, wealth, respectability, female beauty, and notions of good taste.
This photograph by Jean-Loup Sieff (born 1933) is similar to the style of Helmut Newton, but was taken in 1960. The model, Denise Sarrault, looks every bit the rich aristocratic lady or film star – as the photographer remarks, she is like Greta Garbo.
The image is full of symbols of class and power – the shiny Rolls Royce, the pearls and expensive clothes, and the chauffeur, standing to attention. The composition is simple, but brilliantly captures a moment of European hauteur and elegance.
In another Jean Loup Sieff shot, we return to a subject touched on in an earlier picture.
“It was the beautiful Anka, with her desperately tiny waist, who posed in this 1900 corset. In spite of her slim figure, she found it difficult to breathe.”
(Quoted in Jean-Loup Sieff Monograph, page 131)
Evidently so, as we can see in the pose and the position of the hands, the left hand one touching her hip awkwardly. The outline is uneven, and the material squeezes the waist and digs into the skin at the legs. We are left in no doubt of the discomfort involved in wearing it. An uncomfortable image, perhaps, but sexually arousing for some, and symbolic of an ideal of fin-de-siècle femininity which seems to live on as a symbol of Paris and French couture to this day.
The poignancy of the image is enhanced by the simple lighting, coming from a softbox to the left, with a plain grey background. The frame is tightly cropped, cutting out part of the arms, but focusing the attention directly onto the model’s hips and waist. The legs are slightly crossed to enhance the hourglass shape of the body.
As we near the end of this assignment, we approach closer to more contemporary times. One photographer who has featured prominently in the last ten years or so is the American, Matthew Rolston. In ‘Aly, Long Neck, Los Angeles’ (image currently unavailable) we can see what may be one of the first examples of the use of digital imaging in fashion photography. It’s typical of the playful, experimental and eclectic nature of fashion photography in the last decade or so.
A conventional head and upper torso shot of a model is transformed by extreme elongation of the neck, a hat covering the head, with an eye in the middle, which has a keyhole in it. Visually arresting it may be, but I can’t help thinking of a one-eyed ostrich! The transformational possibilities of image manipulation (digital or otherwise), are not put to use here in a way I like.
Despite an unprecedented range of technical possibilities at the disposal of today’s photographers, I can’t help preferring the more classic images of the earlier part of the century to the ‘anything goes’ style of photography one often sees in magazines today, though certain other examples of Matthew Rolston’s extremely varied work I like a lot, but unfortunately not the next one!
This composite (Fig. 25 below left) of Keanu Reeves demonstrates the arrival to the fashion photography of the eighties of a more sexual and physical approach to the depiction of the male, as seen here. Four closely cropped studies of different parts of the actors body are rendered in a sepia brown. Symbols of street culture – denim, a knife, a leather waistcoat, feature prominently. Just like Baron Demeyer, George Hoyningen-Huene, Richard Avedon and David Bailey, it captures an impression of the age, and personally I don’t like it!
I’ll conclude with the image by Javier Vallhonrat (below right) which appears on the cover of ‘The Idealising Vision’, showing a nude female model in a levitating pose, surrounded by a floating length of material, emanating a ghostly luminescence.
I liked this image initially for its use of light, but it has a puzzling fascination which is somehow a reflection of our times – the model could almost be a sculpture in a neon-based art gallery installation.
The glowing light, and the almost otherworldly, ectoplasmic nature of the material, may be evidence of current paranormal obsessions as exemplified in programmes such as The X-Files. The visual effects may well have been achieved by use of digital imaging, though they could also have been achieved by traditional techniques.
The italic f shape formed by the material also looks like some strange kind of other-worldly creature, which the model is riding like a horse. A suitably cryptic and futuristic image to conclude this assignment.
I would love to know the name of the photographer, the date they were taken and the name of the model. If you can help, please get in touch.