19th February 2020

Art in Mancunia: Charlie Bird

Harry Thorfin talks to Charlie Bird, a photographer documenting a changing city through subtle, black and white street photography
Art in Mancunia: Charlie Bird
Image courtesy of Charlie Bird

Charlie Bird is a photographer observing Manchester through the lens of his camera – documenting a changing city and sharing what he sees on his Instagram account.

A scroll through his account gives an insight into a photographer finding his own distinctive style.  “I have been taking photos properly for about 3 years,” he explains. His early work shows him getting to grips with the photographic form, taking candid shots of friends, spliffs and holidays.

Photo credit: Charlie Bird

However, a little over a year ago, Charlie began to take on a more distinct style. He turned to a rugged monochrome. This change in direction was partly in homage to classic street photographers such as André Kertész and Henri Cartier-Bresson, but he also saw the potential in stripping away colour:

“I like using black and white because it draws your attention to things you probably wouldn’t notice if they were in colour.”

Charlie’s photographs at first seem off-the-cuff; simple snapshots of the every day. Yet a closer look reveals a keen eye for shapes and textures, de-familiarising the ordinary in black and white. A personal favourite is a photograph of a basketball court covered in puddles. It’s the type of photo that takes a second to comprehend, the fractured reflections and the curved lines of the court create an odd but beautiful arrangement.

Photo credit: Charlie Bird

Charlie also explores specific themes, recalling “I try to explore themes like industrialization and how England, and particularly Manchester, is changing”. This can be seen in his photos of the glossy, square high risers that are becoming a more frequent part of Manchester’s cityscape. The black and white monochromatic style with the context of the city removed, makes the looming shapes look slightly alien.

A lot of Charlie’s work is classic street photography: people caught mid-stride and hiding under umbrellas. Yet there is often a tension here too. There’s a photo of a man in a balaclava looking straight into the camera with two police officers on either side of him- it’s, quite literally, an arresting image. There always seem to be stories lurking beneath these shots.

Photo credit: Charlie Bird

Charlie is from Kent but is based in Manchester. As seen with many young photographers, Instagram provides the perfect platform for showcasing his work. Whilst the books of Kertész and Cartier-Bresson that lie around his house have been constant sources of inspiration, Charlie also “follows a lot of great photographers on Instagram”.

We look forward to taking his photography from the internet to an exhibition setting, placing it alongside a wide selection of similarly great, up and coming Manchester artists.

Check out more of Charlie’s photography on Instagram: @charliej.bird.

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