We're huge fans of Simon Buckley's work. The man behind the much-loved Not Quite Light project, he's also renowned for his atmospheric urban images of Manchester and Salford at dawn. Last year, his stunning photo of Deansgate, captured in a summer downpour, went viral and was likened to a Lowry painting by The Guardian.
His latest series is one of collaboration. Teaming up with the Manchester Collective, he and various artists are putting on a part-exhibition, part-installation to bring us a tapestry of music, film, dance and photography.
Inspired by a journey along a ruined waterway, Dark Days, Luminous Nights includes a 30-minute film featuring the work of Simon and Lancashire artist Blackhaine, alongside a dramatic score by Edmund Finnis, Béla Bartók, and Wojciech Kilar. It's an intoxicating piece that looks deep into the soul of a city and asks: what have we lost?
We'll be able to experience and explore the immersive, audio-visual installation in timed slots – with social distancing measures in place, of course – and learn more about what Manchester and Salford look like during a pandemic.
"In a time when we can't physically be together, we wanted to shape an experience that contains humanity and creates space for reflection," says Rakhi Singh, Manchester Collective co-founder and music director. "Dark Days, Luminous Nights is the story of what we've all been going through, not as individuals but as a collective experience."
Rakhi adds: "When we met Simon Buckley, we discovered that he has a similar connection with cities that we have with music – looking for spaces that are passed by, in the darkness and ignored. He finds the beauty and personality in them, as well as the hidden stories. His work seamlessly blends the contrasts of the music with elements of dance, photography and film into a complete experience.
"Most of all, this is a project about Manchester. It's about our journey as individuals – as musicians, producers, directors, photographers… We are all part of these bricks and mortar, and it is our story to tell."
Making his directorial debut for this project, in the film, Simon Buckley traces a journey along the river Irk as four lone figures make their way through an urban hinterland. Buckley says the work stems from Not Quite Light: "It was a project where I set out to reacquaint myself with the city I've known and lived in for most of my life, at a time of huge transition both for myself and for Manchester. I was interested in using dawn as a metaphor for change and this project has allowed me to translate my vision into a film – through themes of regeneration, displacement and isolation."
The Not Quite Light project was initially conceived in Angel Meadow, one of the locations for this new work, and so "provides an opportunity to further examine the changes which are soon to arrive in this ancient area of the city of Manchester," as he puts it. "The film, along with the photographs on display, could be seen as fragments of a disquieting dream, which sits in reality," Simon adds.
Dark Days, Luminous Nights launches on Tuesday 26 January and runs until Saturday 30 January 2021. Tickets are now on sale at manchestercollective.co.uk.