As I turn into Edge Street in the North Quarter, there are two men with cameras in the middle of a conversation outside Home Sweet Home. “Did you two know each other before?” Matt Taylor, the founder of the Manchester Street Photography course I’m about to take, asks them when I arrive. “No,” Andy of Oldham replies, “I just saw someone else with a camera and I sat down. Camaraderie through the cameras.
Another budding photographer arrives and sees the cameras confirming that we are all here for a common cause. “I just bought a camera and decided to take a class,” she told Matt, 35, and he immediately looked at his camera and started giving advice.
“The most important thing about today is to capture the image,” Matt tells the group, “It’s not about bragging. Just focus on your subject and how you frame it.
Matt uses a Nikon but he is outnumbered by the Cannons and there is a discussion of which is better, ice-breaking camera jokes. I’m not doing the course with a Canon 500D, or whatever, but with the enviable HTC One. For those who don’t know, it’s a phone.
Class starts in the back room of Home Sweet Home, there are now eight of us and Matt offers everyone a drink before we all sit down to get to know each other. In truth, icebreakers aren’t really my thing, I find them quite atrocious.
Thankfully, Matt made this part painless as the small group revealed his name, why he was on the course and what he hoped to get out of the day. It was actually informative and the levels of knowledge were as diverse as the people present.
Andy wanted to know more about the legality of taking photos of people on the streets (in case you’re wondering if it’s a public space, it’s pretty much a fair game) while James from Cheshire finished his portfolio of the Royal Photography Society. “The most important thing about today is to capture the image,” Matt tells the group, “It’s not about bragging. Just focus on your subject and how you frame it.
We went out into the street and started to crack. Within seconds, Matt spotted an open door a few steps up with the words “over here” stenciled in and entered the building so we could take a picture.
Matt works in frames, he explained between being forced to capture images and biding his time to get the perfect shot. “If I see a place that I love, I’ll remember it and go back and wait for something to fill the picture. It has definitely changed the way I see Manchester, ”he said.
During the morning I could definitely understand. We moved to Market Street where on a busy Saturday there was no shortage of interesting topics. The small group briefly dispersed but Matt was always available to offer help and advice.
When Andrew wanted to capture a homeless man, which clearly worried him, Matt accompanied him. “Come on, I’ll show you how easy it is.” He made it look easy. “Look at the juxtaposition between the man and the cash machine.” I hadn’t noticed this before Matt pointed it out and it’s clearly something he’s always on the lookout for.
With confidence building within the group, Matt set himself his first task; stop someone and ask them to take their picture. He demonstrated how easy it was for the couple closest to us, then sent us off to do the same. It’s surprising how ready people are to have their pictures taken if you tell them you think they look cool.
Matt asks his students to send in their photos at the end of class so they can be featured on his Facebook page and he’s adamant that anyone of any level can get involved, ” I know it sounds a little weird but your camera isn’t that important it’s more about having an eye on it. You can bring a camera phone, a Lomo camera, an iPad you can use anything. It’s not about having a fancy, expensive camera, the most important thing is you, “he told me.
Matt is confident in his job without being patronizing, which is refreshing and the confidence he exudes was absorbed by his students that morning. In the end, we were all looking at Manchester with different eyes, looking – as Matt so often does – for the perfect frame.
Does he have any advice for people who want to get into street photography? “Be prolific,” he says. “You’re never going to take a good picture sitting at home, go out there and do it, that’s the biggest advice I can give to anyone. You have to be on the streets to take pictures and the more you do it the more comfortable you feel, developing your own technique and your own style.
His class is engaging, it’s something different to do on a Saturday morning and the mix of experience and inexperience works well.
This could be due to the simple fact that it’s rare for a group of strangers to get together just once to share a common interest, and then disperse for what could be forever, much like the strangers in our shots of. street photography.
Manchester Street Photography runs monthly street photography classes in which Matt covers camera settings, styles, tips and advice, and what street photography is before putting it all into practice on the streets. from the city.
Manchester Street Photography’s next course takes place on Saturday 28 June and costs £ 25 per person. Visit Manchester Street Photograph Facebook for more information.