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'.

Manchester viral photograph
(Image credit: Getty)

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.”

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

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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 atnotquitelight.com.

Lauren Hughes
Lauren Hughes

Lauren is deputy editor at woman&home.com in the UK and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. With a background in features journalism, Lauren has worked on the woman&home brand for four years. Before woman&home Lauren worked across a variety of women's lifestyle titles, including GoodTo, Woman's Own, and Woman magazine. After starting out working for a local paper in Yorkshire, her journalism career took her to Bristol where she hunted out stories for national papers and magazines at Medavia news agency, before landing a job in London working as a lifestyle assistant.


Lauren loves helping people share their stories, bringing experiences to life online, honing her interview techniques with everyone from authors to celebrities, headteachers to local heroes. As well as having a good nose for a story, Lauren has a passion for the English language and years of experience optimizing digital content to reach the widest audience possible. During her time at w&h, Lauren has worked on big brand campaigns like the Amazing Women Awards and assisted in developing w&h expert-approved Buyer's Guides—the place to go if you're looking to splash out on an important purchase and want some trusted advice. In addition to her journalism career, Lauren also has a background in copywriting for prestigious brands such as Inhabit Hotel, eco-development K'in in Tulum, social enterprise The Goldfinger Factory and leading London architect Holland Harvey, using language in all its glorious forms, from detailed guidebooks to snappy social content. 


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