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Photography News

Manchester, Piccadilly: Night Shot

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Night Shot, Piccadilly. Stephen Riley Photography
I take a lot of night shots. The technical problems are different, but not necessarily worse once you get used to them, and the effects are transformative.

What is familiar during the day, and indeed at night – if you’re there – can be a very different experience once captured in the lens. Possibly this is because we are so much more used to efficient, brightly lit photography, which aspires to technical perfection.

This shot has another level of defamiliarisation, too, because it is taken from great height. The road – Piccadilly in Manchester; between Piccadilly Gardens and the Station – is very busy and well known to all who visit the city, being tramped by countless commuters by day and revellers by night, but this angle and lighting arrangement create something perhaps other worldly.

The lack of light makes the shot atmospherically grainy; the inevitable long exposure means that car lights blur; words painted on the tarmac are shifted into the plane of vision rather than being partly visible, flat grey shapes vanishing over the camber of the road, and the glittery fragments in the materials reflect light, as the road traffic engineers intended. The mixture of heightened colour, spatial flattening, fidgety surface marks and an unnatural viewing angle give the shot overtones of photography’s forbear: painting. The letters and the patchwork qualities of this photograph make me think of Robert Rauschenburg's work.