The Stockport Collection

In April 2020, during the first UK Covid-19 lockdown, I found myself looking through my 35 mm film archive, or, more accurately, my "messy stash". Along with the old family photo I wanted, I discovered a few other folders of negatives. Some of these were images made during two or three weekend visits to Stockport Market in Manchester in 1976 and 1977, when I had exposed several rolls of film with the old Leica M4 camera. At the time, I was a full-time student at Stirling University, then a parent with a full-time career in Social Work. The negatives went into storage and forgotten. For forty-three years.

Looking at the photographs now, with 21st Century eyes, it seems they could have been made in the 1950's. The surroundings, clothing and faces show clear evidence of a community accustomed to daily hardship and poverty.

But the smiles, some shy, some surprised, some proud, bring back rich memories of busyness and business, of the noise of chat and activity which characterise any thriving, traditional market environment.

One or two noticed a young female with a camera, and some looked suspicious. But most were too busy finding that bargain or exchanging the latest gossip, or shouting out their wares or singing their hymns. Even in the winter, the atmosphere was unmistakably warm and sociable.

It was a time before the internet, before Brexit and Covid-19 and zoom meetings. It was a time when a living community, with predictable customs based on necessary mutual reliance, provided that sense of belonging which has become so elusive in our current online lifestyles.

The Stockport Collection book, hardback, 116 pages, beautifully designed by Robert Shaw of Northbank with foreword by Paul Morley.

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