Why this photograph of a northern city scene has so many captivated – including Stephen Fry

Manchester-based artist Simon Buckley almost didn't post the picture of 'rainy Manchester again'.

Sunday's Photograph of the Week section in the Observer Magazine saw Salford-based artist Simon Buckley's handiwork in the much-coveted spot.

The photograph itself, which looks like a moody 1940’s city scene, was actually taken back in August during Manchester’s unseasonal downpour – and, quite unbelievably, on a humble iPhone.

The 53-year-old was observing the scene from a bridge above Whitworth Street West when he took the photograph and posted it on to his professional Twitter account – @NotQuiteLight.

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In the minutes following, he revealed his notifications “went mental”, with many praising his work online. Simon has since been inundated with requests for the print.

NotQuiteLight showcases Manchester scenes in the narrow window of time just before dawn.

“The idea of the half-light,” he says, “translates into many ideas: those memories that aren’t quite full in our brains, dreams you only half-remember.”

The photograph has been so popular, it’s even caught the attention of Stephen Fry, who compared it to renowned Salford artist Stephen Lowry.

He captioned the picture, ‘Someone took this photograph round here the other day. Nature imitating art, as Oscar would say, and giving a very fair version of a #lowry (sorry I can’t credit the photographer – hope they don’t mind)’

“It must speak to something within us who live within the city,” Simon told the Observer. “I think it appeals to the essence of what people believe Manchester is, despite it being a dynamic, changing city: strength, industrialism, forward-thinking, there’s always light in the dark – I think that’s a very Mancunian attitude.

“Human beings pretty much carry on walking and behaving as they always did in rain: they stoop, they move fast. You can see the timeline between our Victorian selves and now – it’s not just the buildings that are there, it’s also the people. There’s no individual that you could identify: they’re all shapes and silhouettes, aren’t they?”

The image is available to buy as a limited edition print at notquitelight.com.

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