As part of my photo e-book project, I’ve made a selection of my best photos of Stockport and presented them in a free photographic e-book. My aim is to present my entire portfolio on different places in a series of photo e-books. I decided to start with Stockport as it’s my home town.
I was born and grew up in Stockport and I’m based here today. My childhood memories of Stockport are of a grim northern town like the one featured in the film ‘A Taste of Honey’. It was smoky, industrial and predominantly working-class. We often view that era in black and white, but there were splashes of colour – the trees and flowers and the shiny red and cream buses.
In 1974 the local authority area was expanded to include surrounding villages and residential districts and suddenly, the place called ‘Stockport’ became a lot bigger and more diverse.
There isn’t a specific theme, I just chose from all the photos I’ve taken of Stockport over the years, including some very recent ones. My favourite motifs in Stockport are:
The Market Place – in Germany this would be designated ‘Altstadt’ – old town. Still, it looks very attractive, parts of it have been restored and it has a wide variety of architectural styles. St Mary’s Church is interesting because of the stonework. When it was renovated, they inserted new stones. It reminds me of the reconstructed Frauenkirche in Dresden. The Market Hall looks great. It has been restored and lovingly painted. The effect of the glass and colours is superb.
The feature I photograph the most is probably the railway viaduct. It dominates the town and is a masterpiece of Victorian engineering that is still in daily use. I travel over it normally a few times a week. There are great views of the town and looking west over Cheshire. I took some photos in the 80s of the viaduct, which at that time was in need of renovation. The renovation took place and today it looks good. The best time to photograph the viaduct from the town centre is in the morning and from the west of Stockport is in the afternoon. I have taken it pretty much from all angles. I also drew a sketch of it, based on my 1980s black and white photograph.
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Another great feature of Stockport is the River Mersey. I often cycle along the river to the west of the town. I include one dusk photo of the river taken from Heaton Mersey at the very end of the book.
The town hall is a major landmark. I’ve been impressed with it since I was a child. The intricate stonework and the perfectly shaped clock tower are a marvel and completely different from buildings constructed today. Diagonally opposite the town hall is the War Memorial Art Gallery, which reminds me of civic buildings in Washington DC. When I was a child I had winning paintings displayed here two years running and I won a camera each year. I didn’t realise at the time that it was a foretaste of what was to come.
Another feature of Stockport I find visually captivating is the M60 motorway. I’ve taken lots of dusk and night photos with light trails. From Wellington Road North, the view along the motorway, under the railway viaduct, is stunning and you will see another major landmark of Stockport, The Pyramid, formerly occupied by the Co-operative Bank.
Stockport has countless parks, gardens and green spaces. The town is criss-crossed by all kinds of footpaths and wooded valleys, some only a short distance from residential districts. I’ve lived in cities with virtually no green spaces, so it’s great to live in a place with so much greenery. In my opinion, Stockport has some of the most desirable residential suburbs anywhere in the country. They have developed around villages, which still have a strong character of their own. These include Cheadle and Bramhall, which are featured in photos in the book.
I chose Bramall Hall for the front cover because it is Stockport’s oldest and possibly most famous landmark. It’s a half-timbered mansion begun in the 14th century and extended in the 16th and 19th. It is impressive even by today’s standards. We can only imagine what people thought of it in the Middle Ages. Also the photo of Bramall Hall has space for the title in the sky area at the top! Cover images have to have available space in the right places. There’s also some space underneath for the author’s name.
Why am I using the e-book format?
Because I love looking at photography books, both printed and electronic. I like putting together a cover design, I enjoy doing layout and it’s nice to package up my photos in a self-contained format that people can keep. It’s independent of any website and can be forwarded from one person to another. The layout is very simple but I may try more complex layout in future.
I’ve collaborated on some book projects in the past, including Liverpool Then and Now, Manchester Then and Now and Around the M60, Manchester’s Orbital Motorway. At present I prefer to concentrate on smaller e-book projects, like this one. The book can also be printed on demand.
I find it frustrating that many people don’t select their best photos, presenting them in a continuous, never-ending stream on social media or dumped on their computer with no curation or organisation. I like the idea of curating, which simply means to choose.
I also think it’s important to describe the photos, though in these e-books, the captions are brief. I am planning extended versions with a longer text.
The text is in three languages – English, German and French, my native language and my two foreign languages. I studied German and French at Trinity College Dublin, majoring in German and I’ve taught them for many years.
Through the e-book format, I can bring together my two main areas – photography and languages. Actually, many photography books are presented in two or more languages. Photography is a medium that spans cultures and languages. I would like to promote the local area to an international audience.
I want to bring my languages as much as possible into my creative work. I can help my students to learn and I also learn myself when I am researching the titles. It helps me to know how to describe local landmarks, and I can use this linguistic knowledge if I’m giving a local photographic tour to German or French-speaking visitors. I’ve made a vocabulary sheet for language students. It’s called the Vocab Extractor sheet.
The photos were taken on a variety of cameras. The black and white photos of the viaduct were shot on my first camera, the Fujica STX-1, loaded with Ilford HP5 black and white film. The two townscapes were taken on a Nikon F50 film camera – I decided not to remove the dust and scratches! Other photos were taken on a variety of cameras, most recently the iPhone 8 Plus.
The Stockport e-book is the first in a series. Other titles include Manchester city centre views, The Liver Building, Monochrome Manchester and many more.
This photography e-book is free of charge. That’s because it is really a showcase of my photography and I’d like as many people to see it as possible.