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20th November 2017

Review: Airport ’87

Central Library’s select but charming collection of photographs captures the vibrant atmosphere of Manchester Airport thirty years ago

Shirley Baker’s Airport ‘87 collection at Manchester Central Library encompasses the vibrant atmosphere of Manchester Airport 30 years ago. Salford-born photographer Shirley Baker eloquently captured the hustle and bustle of holiday-makers and business people, using a 35mm camera with both black & white, and colour film.

This small but charming collection of photographs were discovered in the library archives, a true hidden gem from Baker’s career. At first glance, these photographs show an environment much alike to the modern day airport; families sat waiting with a huge pile of suitcases, shops stacked full of Superkings, and excited tourists wearing their sunhats before they even get on the plane.

Looking closely, these photographs show how times have changed since 1987. People of all ages are sat playing cards to pass the time  — an increasingly rare sight in the modern day. Newspaper headlines, the wonderfully big hairstyles, and the vintage arcade machines show us the lively spirit of 80s culture before people embarked upon their journeys to different parts of the world.

The hustle-and-bustle of Manchester airport, alike to the modern day, signifies the city of Manchester’s importance as a cosmopolitan place of connectivity.

The aesthetic style, and perhaps most significantly, the introduction of new technology, has changed the image of the airport. Yet these photographs capture a sense of excitement through the waiting passengers, whilst also being representative of how much Manchester – and society as a whole – has changed within the past thirty years. These works succeed in capturing a fleeting moment, that comes to represent decades of difference.

This exhibition is at the Central Library from the 5th October 2017 to the 6th of January 2018.

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