It was February 2013 when I was out in Manchester doing some street photography with my adopted son Mark, who was 18 at the time and had been showing some interest in the hobby. I had bought him a camera for his birthday the previous summer and it was now February and we still hadn’t been out together. We’d had a good day’s shooting. I had captured some decent images of Mark and you can view them here http://farm6.clik.com/mmurray/gallery_672376.html
Anyway it was about this time that I was starting on what you might describe as an “who do you think you are” period and I had decided that I wanted to go and see the street – or what’s left of it – where my late mother had grown up during the war; Marshall Street. This was located in Manchester’s Ancoats district, so-called at that time ‘Little Italy’ because of it’s large and well-established population of Italians, of whom my mother was one. At that time, Ancoats was about as poor an area as there was in Manchester, my mothers house a cockroach-invested slum. Additionally, as we were at war with Italy, the Italian residents were seen as ‘enemy aliens’ and subject to close monitoring and suspicion; my grandfather was actually incarcerated on the Isle of Man for much of the war. Finally, to add to the worry and discomfort, Ancoats is right at the heart of Manchester and when the German bombers arrived over the Christmas of 1940… well… the story in my family is that my mother’s house took a direct hit from an incendiary bomb which was thankfully put out before it could cause any great damage.
Anyway, after the war the area was cleared of it’s slum housing including Marshall Street and the family moved to new and what must have been viewed as palatial housing on one of Manchester Corporations new housing estates; 3-bedrooms and an inside toilet! Ancoats was left to decay and is now, despite some regeneration, a shadow of what it was… While there has been to noticeable increase in the number of residents living in Manchester’s central districts, it is still considerably less than was the case in in early 1900’s, when this vibrant community was at it’s height and ‘pomp’.
So I took Mark to see where, in a fashion, I came from. I have spent so little of my life looking back at my own family history, despite having a real passion for history in a broader sense. It’s good to look back – we can learn so much about the ‘now’ when we do so.
I was taking a picture of the street sign, just a curiosity really, and Mark stood in front of my camera and this image emerged. In monochrome and with the blurred image of a pensive-looking Mark it has the effect – for me at least – of transporting me back to another time, one I never knew, but in some sense at least, still feel the effect of?