In Haunt

Photographers are a vital part of a city’s creative community, not only providing an eyewitness visual account of events but a valuable social document that others can revisit, time-over.

‘A Selection of Photographers Celebrating Manchester’s Underground Culture’ is an ongoing series at HAUNT Manchester which seeks to showcase the range of photographers working in and around the city’s underground and alternative cultures – grassroots gigs, cabaret, Queer culture, club nights, location shots, model work and plenty more.

 These photographers are often themselves championing perhaps under-covered areas of the city, providing an insightful perspective into unique and powerful pockets of creativity.

There is also an aspect to underground photography which could be considered somewhat Gothic in itself: those involved often pointing the camera from the atmospheric darkness of the pit, secluded balconies, gritty basement venues, secretive side-streets.

Here at HAUNT we believe that photographers deserve to be recognised, especially for their ability to document the alternative side of the city. Following on from the first article in the series, we decided to delve further into their work, with each evocative image of the city’s underground here attached to a named photographer…

Shari Denson

Manchester-based Shari Denson has been photographing bands and artists in and around the city since 2002. Her early work was evocatively DIY, largely taken on black and white film and developed by herself in the darkroom – and although moving over to digital in recent years, she still retains a love of grassroots culture and music in particular.

Her photography was handpicked by Ian Brown to feature on his 2007 album ‘The World is Yours’ and bands including Elbow, Tim Booth, The Charlatans and many more, have been included in her work. With an extensive portfolio including the late Fly Magazine, NME and Flick of the Finger, Shari is one of the most respected photographers in her field. She was also included in the 2018 Suffragette City exhibition at The Refuge, which featured portraits of 25 of the most inspiring women in Manchester music and is one half of the upcoming ‘A Very Insecure Exhibition’, displaying her photography along with Karen McBride on 22nd February 2019 in Manchester.

Shari reflects on her love of underground music photography in Manchester:

“I've always loved the feel of smoky, seedy, underground clubs. Add to that the raw energy and hunger of the unsigned, up-and-coming band, and I feel right at home.

“These are the venues where the true music lovers gather. They're not here because they've been influenced by the media, they're here because they like the band's name, or they've seen them at a similar small club, or because a trusted friend has said great things about them. They're here because, like me, they love seedy underground clubs full of raw energy, and the intensity.

“When I'm photographing a gig like this, I find there's a collaboration between myself and the subject. They're ecstatic to be photographed and often play to the camera, knowing great images will help propel them further. They're hungry for recognition, and why shouldn't they be iconised in the same way their own heroes were, when they were young and thirsty for adoration...untouched by major record labels who will suck the creativity, hunger, passion and rawness from them with their ruthless deals and demands.

“This is the time to catch a band in their purest form, and at their most interesting moment. It's often way too fleeting. In a great mix of their influences and mine, we make striking images, cutting off a little piece of space and time and preserving it forever.”

Photograph by Shari Denson: image of Jordan Ray of Avalanche Party

Shirlaine Forrest

Shirlaine is known for her often colourful and characterful shots, exploring the eclectic range of culture in Manchester where she is based. She is also the Official O2 Apollo Photographer, therefore seeing a range of bands and artists come through on a regular basis. Covering a range of subjects including music, fashion and portrait photography, her images have been used regularly including by the likes of The Guardian, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, HMV and NME. She also holds a particular interest in Roller Darby and the culture that surrounds it, as well as Comic Con and Star Wars. According to Shirlaine:

“I moved to Manchester from Newcastle 20 years ago and was immediately consumed by the culture and diversity of the city.  Manchester is an inspiration for my photography, there’s always something new and exciting around every corner.

“I love shooting for big clients like GCCF, Getty, HMV, O2 Apollo and Intu Trafford Centre and equally adore photographing smaller venues (when the lighting’s on form!) which includes Community Arts North West who run theatrical and musical workshops and performances with refugees and homeless groups:   My roller derby team MRD are incredibly special too. I often have ideas for shoots which mainstream bands or models would shy from, but my gorgeous athletes have never let me down yet… I’ve thrown them in fire, submerged them under water and made them throw shapes in a sandstorm and they always excel.  I’m also currently exploring creative pet photography, with cats as a speciality!”

Photograph by Shirlaine Forrest

Gemma Leigh

Gemma Leigh, also known as Lethal Gem, Alternative Model of the Year 2018, represented by Rogue Model Management (and previously a very special guest at HAUNT Manchester’s ‘Black Christmas’) is also an innovative photographer based at StreetStar Photography. Her imaginative approach often involves the dramatic use of colour, light and shade in portraiture, but always celebrates the individuality and interests of the subject. The more creative she can be set the better. She truly lives for her art, whether it be in performance, painting, written word or photography. Gemma Leigh reflects:

“The person in the photograph is my husband (Kael Loveless) and my constant support, I have MS and EDS and no matter how much it takes for me to recover from a photoshoot, he supports me; as I come to life when I'm behind the camera. It's like all my problems melt away as he loves my photography and it gives me that freedom.”

Photograph by Gemma Leigh: Image of Kael Loveless

David Gleave

David Gleave’s photographs regularly take the form of social documentary, exploring culture and locations with intensity, often evocatively in black and white. He reflects:

“I'm a historian with a camera. My reason and passion for photography comes from a need to record what I experience. Sometimes that's music and sometimes it's not. If it is music, I'm more interested in capturing candid moments back stage or in the studio than getting live shots.

“I've been fortunate that both Cabbage and The Blinders have both let me in and given me access to shoot them extensively and both bands will feature heavily in my upcoming exhibition.

“I started wanting to make photographs of my own having seen an exhibition by Manchester photographer Samuel Coulthurst. Nearly all of his images were made on the streets of Ancoats and Salford in the last 20 years of the 19th Century. I was looking at these people who, although all long since gone, were somehow frozen for ever in time by his camera. From that moment I wanted to start keeping my own people alive and maybe 100 years from now someone be looking at my images and feeling  the same way.”

Photograph by David Gleave: Image of The Blinders

Amanda J Window

Amanda J Window is a Manchester-based photographer with an extensive portfolio, celebrating creative culture and music in particular, with her images often expressing the intense mood and passion of each performance. Her photography has featured at the likes of Penny Black Music, New Reviews, and The Hype Media UK - where she was Director of Photography, and she is also involved with a number of freelance projects. According to Amanda:

“I've been shooting around Manchester for around eight years now and I love artists who put every ounce of energy into their performance (although these are the hardest to capture).

“There are lots of Mancunian venues like Band On The Wall, Jimmy’s, The Night & Day Cafe that showcase the up and coming bands.”

Photograph by Amanda Window: image of John Cooper Clarke  at The Palace Theatre, Manchester

Adam Pester

Adam is a Social Media Manager by day (for I Love MCR and Liverpool Eats) and a photographer when he gets chance. His camera of choice is a Canon 5D Mark III, and he is known for his striking cityscapes and alternate angles on viewing the urban space. Adam says:

“Photographing Manchester is my way of saying thank you to becoming an adoptive Manc. It's always been a way for me to keep discovering the landscape and capture it in the most unique way I can.”

Photograph by Adam Pester: image of old railway tracks

Nathan Whittaker

Nathan is a keen street and music photographer, and is also the Lead Photographer for MCR Live. He reflects more about his creative involvement:

"I started taking photography a little more seriously just under two years ago and primarily focused on street photography around Manchester; trying to show parts of the city that would often go unnoticed. Since taking photos for the first time at a live music event in late 2017 I got hooked straight away, and it became my favourite thing to do.

“Having been a keen gig-goer for a long time I found that capturing moments from the night made it a completely different experience and challenge. The feeling of knowing I have some great shots when leaving a gig makes it so much more enjoyable, and I can't wait to go through the images as soon as I get home.

“It allows me to discover new artists in a city that has so many brilliant venues (Jimmy's and The Night & Day are two of my favourites) that give them opportunities. Not only that, it's helped me get the opportunity myself to shoot in the photo pits of the larger venues right through to the Apollo and Manchester Arena, as well as taking on the role of lead photographer at MCR Live who themselves promote some of the best new artists in the city."

Photograph by Nathan Whittaker: image of Psychic Markers playing at YES

Heather Glazzard

Heather Glazzard is a Queer photographer and artist who is currently based in London, though has significantly documented Manchester’s Queer culture through striking, often emotive imagery:

“I'm mainly passionate about documenting queer culture through my imagery because the people are real, it's hard to come by in society, queer people push societal structure and they challenge it. Capturing this allows me and others to process it visually.

“I mainly became interested in LGBT+ issues after realising there wasn't much room or representation for us. I started an exhibition called Moist, which led me to explore and work with groups of people I felt at home with. Once my imagery developed I decided to only work with LGBT+ people because not many people do. The queer space for me is where I feel I can be my most authentic self and it feels only right I put that in my photography work. Photography should be authentic - performative yes, but authentic in the way you connect with the imagery you look at.”

Photograph by Heather Glazzard


Richard is a Macclesfield based live performance photographer and videographer who goes under the title ‘thepicturedrome’. He is particularly drawn to live performance events in Manchester and the North West which showcase the talents of  ‘under the radar’ artists. These have included Foundations Festival, Sonder Festival, Macclesfield Festival and Barnaby Festival. He hopes his work encourages the artists he photographs to continue on their creative journey and reflects on this through the line:

“Hopefully upstream, sometimes downstream, but never mainstream.”

Photograph by thepicturedrome: Pandemonium at Foundations Festival

Jordan Roberts

Jordan Roberts is a Manchester based photographer, known for his expressive photography and celebration of Queer and alternative cultures. Recent work includes covering Creatures of Catharsis – a show which features Queer performance, drag, live music and comedy. He also carries out his own projects, with provocative portraiture a speciality. According to Jordan:

“I want to show the world that queer people are just people, doing what makes them happy. We are painted as bad people by right wing folk so often, we don't have equal rights, in some countries our rights are being taken away, or have never even been given to us, and we're just people, trying to find ourselves in the world. I want to just show the world these beautiful queer faces, queer love, I want to tackle stigmas through my work and give credit to our fucking awesome community.

“Whether I'm just showing two queer people being in love, or doing a portrait of a trans woman looking incredibly beautiful… I want to show the world that sex isn't shameful. I'm a sex worker, I'm HIV+ and I'm a Homosexual and a total ally to everybody else in the LGBT+ community. I want to give people something to relate to, even if they're not a part of that community, find something for people to help them understand us.”

Photograph by Jordan Roberts: Image of Juno Birch and Philip Lopes

Nick Benke

Nick has been a keen photographer since his teenage years, with his images often uncovering the ‘hidden’ sides of the city, including abandoned buildings and structures. Much of his work is location-based, exploring a variety of textures and shades for intense atmospheric effect.

He has also done photography work for alternative modelling, gigs and a range of night shoots.  Other than a small certificate in Landscape Photography, City & Guilds 923, Nick is self-taught which means he goes beyond the aims of generic photography, allowing his work to emerge different from the norm. His work has also appeared on a single and album sleeve by AAAK.

Nick reflects: “I don't believe in having a studio as I see the world as one big one… if you want to see great architecture in your city, just look up.”

Photograph by Nick Benke: Image of Morganna, close to Piccadilly Station

Elliss Lewin-Turner

Elliss Lewin-Turner is an interdisciplinary artist exploring bodies and culture and how they are perceived.

Photograph by Elliss Lewin-Turner: Amelia and Elle; in awe of the city and each other

Simon Buckley

Simon is a Salford based artist. He describes Salford and Manchester as ‘my home since I began taking photographs’ and both feature heavily in his work. His Not Quite Light concept has featured previously in HAUNT, displaying Simon’s images in and around the city at dawn and dusk.

Simon cites inspiration from walking in Angel Meadow – the site under which an estimated 40,000 people are buried, formerly one of the most impoverished areas of the city during The Industrial Revolution – and thinking of the transformative aspects of light beyond the typical daytime hours.

Simon’s first NQL project was titled ‘From Old Mill To The End Of Empire’, exploring themes of heritage and restoration on Manchester’s North and East edges. His second project, ‘From Trinity To The Crescent’ documents Salford in the early hours, featured at Simon’s debut Not Quite Light Weekend 2018 (a celebration of creative culture and Salford) and is still ongoing.

Simon is also directing Not Quite Light Weekend 2019 (due in March). His commission for 5 Plus Architects, “You Live With Us, We Live With You”, has also been published as a book. According to Simon:

"I mostly work in the half light of an emerging dawn, when Salford and Manchester present as blocks of dark tone, punctured only by pools of light that seem to create loneliness rather than the intended comfort. The buildings have a more secure presence than the few people passing by. For those of us that constantly question ourselves, and who we are, there's a curious comfort to being on the streets at a time when the city appears so sure of itself"

Photograph by Simon Buckley: Image of Mangle Street in the Northern Quarter, looking towards Ancoats

Twitter /Instagram: @NotQuiteLight

Tom Quaye

Tom is a Manchester born and bred artist, aiming to highlight the beauty of the city and its people, through his work as 0161, Queers of Manchester and his Dance Yrself Clean club night.

His photography work as 0161 is particularly striking in its evocative ability to explore light and shade, often casting a fresh perspective on areas across the city. Tom reflects:

“I began taking pictures of Manchester to expose the city that exists behind the cliché. Yes, it has a proud industrial and musical heritage but it is also a current and vital place right now. If you live and work in the city then you can’t help but feel the energy and this is something through 0161 I’ve always been keen to capture in my work.

“I want the buildings look like they’re perspiring with light, exhaling steam or pulsating to drive the flow of the pedestrians around them. The people in this city mean a great deal to me, there are many wonderful and creative people, nowhere more so than in Manchester’s LGBT+ community. This is why late last year I began Queers of Manchester that looks to profile so many of the many artists, performers, writers etc who are responsible for this being one of the artistic epicentres of Europe.”

Photograph by Tom Quaye: Image of The University of Manchester


FAKE TRASH is the artistic name of creative duo Lill and Rudy, who create intense, often colourful imagery celebrating alternative culture and Manchester’s Queer culture in particular. There is a particular flamboyant flair and sense of experimentation to their approach. According to Rudy:

“Myself and Lill (@lillofficial) just really like experimenting with colour - the more it clashes the better - and then marry that with pop culture references or something a little 'off’ or sinister.”

Photograph by FAKE TRASH: Image of Kevin Le Grand

Disclaimer: The above photographers are just some examples of the wonderful creatives working in and around the city: by no means is this a definitive guide or a ranked list. Feel free to email us at - we always want to hear about more weird and wonderful recommendations as part of our ongoing series.




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