Manchester’s Urban Art Legend


Manchester’s Northern Quarter was once the centre of the city’s thriving nineteenth century cotton industry. Between the Second World War and the 1980s, the area became depressed and largely abandoned until a regeneration programme attracted independent businesses. These days the area is once again booming, this time as a popular destination for alternative bars, cafes, fashion and record shops. There is no shortage of creative inspiration amongst a network of narrow streets and alleys hosting constantly evolving street art, including spectacular large-scale murals created by internationally-renowned artists. Where the property developer’s wrecking balls have yet to swing, the area’s industrial heritage and architectural character can still be found. It is on these once-forgotten walls that street artists have created some of the most vibrant and evocative art in the UK. This is by no means the British capital of street art but nevertheless it is a constant, valuable, source of modern-day public art.

Legendary street artist Akse at work on the streets of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Legendary street artist Akse at work on the streets of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Take a walk through the Northern Quarter and you will be sure to come across the work of an artist who has generated a cult-following among urban art enthusiasts and who is responsible for some of Manchester’s most memorable and inspiring art. Akse (pronounced Axe), is a self-taught French artist of Vietnamese origins who made his home here in Manchester more than twenty years ago. His photo-realistic portraits of pop-culture icons consistently draw praise and attention from all quarters. He is probably best known for a tribute to David Bowie that sat in Stevenson Square, becoming a selfie hot-spot during 2016. His work isn’t limited to Manchester and his art has appeared in a number of UK, European cities and beyond.

I’ve been a fan of Akse’s work for many years; the first time I came across one of his paintings was in 2012. I had began to take iPhone photography seriously and I found myself taking an increasing amount of street and urban shots. Whilst photographing on the edge of town, near where the Mancunian Way passes through Hulme, I stumbled across a freshly painted portrait of actor Christopher Walkden. Being a fan of the Deer Hunter, True Romance and Seven Psychopaths star, I snapped away and thought no more of it. A short time afterwards I came across a painting of my all-time favourite actor Jack Nicholson, this time on Newton Street in the Northern Quarter. I was hooked, I had to find out more about the artist and see more of his work.

Christopher Walkden by Aske.

Christopher Walkden by Aske.

The two works turned out to be part of Akse’s evolving Movie Psychopaths Project that went on to include Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Spacey, Christian Bale amongst others and the prominent characters from the cult TV series Breaking Bad. A short-lived controversial portrait of the shows’ Heisenberg aka Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston was created on the side of the Out House Projects’ electricity sub-station on the corner of Tib Street and Thomas Street. The image, possibly one of the artists’ best, created to coincide with season five of the popular US crime-drama in 2013, instantly went viral on social media. Criticism that that the image glorified drug use in the area, led to its defacement as a protest. Subsequent character images suffered similar vandalisation.

Heisenberg was quickly defaced.

Heisenberg was quickly defaced.

Jack Nicholson can be found on Newton Street, Northern Quarter.

Jack Nicholson can be found on Newton Street, Northern Quarter.

In 2015 I photographed Akse putting creating ‘The Bull of Tib Street’, commissioned by the Butcher’s Quarter.

In 2015 I photographed Akse putting creating ‘The Bull of Tib Street’, commissioned by the Butcher’s Quarter.

Street art can change quickly; taggers will scrawl names and graffiti on new installations within days. In some locations, such as those run by Out House in Stevenson Square and Tib Street, artists are invited to repaint the walls with new creations on a regular basis. The rapid pace at which street art can be short-lived was evident in Akse’s recent mural of Donald Trump and Martin Luther King, painted at Talbot Mill in Castlefield. The piece, timed to coincide with the US President’s visit to the UK, entitled ‘Battle of the Birds’ shows several Twitter style birds emerging from the the President’s mouth during an angry rant, whilst a dove of peace appears above Dr King. The art lasted barely a month before the wall was demolished, I was gutted that I didn’t get a chance to visit. A video, made by Manchester film-maker Charlie Watts, documents the side of the wall featuring the President’s image being destroyed. The wall has since been demolished.

I introduce participants on my Northern Quarter Smartphone Workshops to the work of Akse and other artists. I encourage them to document the art before it is painted over or destroyed, we shouldn’t let street art fade away, take a photo to preserve the memory and message of these modern-day masterpieces!

Akse’s work features on tens of thousands of pictures social media posts by Mancunians and tourists alike. Without doubt, the David Bowie mural was one of Akse’s most famous and became a Northern Quarter landmark during 2016, disappointing many when it eventually was replaced. It was inspired by a photograph by Gavin Evans. “I’ve been in the street art world a long time and seen a lot of Bowie tributes” he told The Manchester Evening News, “I wanted to find a different visual.”

The prolific artist was back on the streets creating another tribute to music-legend who also passed away in the same year; Aske’s portrait of Prince was based on a photograph by Afshin Shahidi.

Painting larger-than-life portraits as the world watches over your shoulder, must takes guts, confidence and a unshaking belief in your own ability. I am in awe and envious of this man’s level of talent and creativity.

Akse created the famous David Bowie tribute in Stevenson Square.

Akse created the famous David Bowie tribute in Stevenson Square.

Prince by Akse.

Prince by Akse.

Another long-standing, popular piece was a wonderful portrait of Tony Wilson, known to many as 'Mr Manchester', who died in 2007. Akse created the stunning tribute to the founder of Factory Records and former manager of Joy Division, New Order, and Happy Mondays on the same Tib Street sub-station that has repeatedly served him and others as a canvas. The response was incredible as Mancunians immediately took the image to their hearts.

A mural of Manchester music legend Tony Wilson by Akse.

A mural of Manchester music legend Tony Wilson by Akse.

Despite all of the acclaim, Akse remains very approachable and friendly, happy to answer questions and chat, he prefers to remain anonymous but is happy to be photographed. In addition to recreating the likeness of pop culture icons, he also takes inspiration from much closer to home. Portraits of his children have been appearing in numerous locations for some time. Another excellent movie from Charlie Watts shows the gentle, caring side to the spray-paint artist.

I photographed ‘Mikel’ on Spear Street in the Northern Quarter (now boarded over).

I photographed ‘Mikel’ on Spear Street in the Northern Quarter (now boarded over).

Currently, recently completed street art by Akse featuring Manchester’s own Liam Gallagher and Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark in the hit series Game of Thrones can be found in the city centre along with the artist’s latest mural of Eleven aka El from Netflix hit Stranger Things played by English actress Millie Bobby Brown. Be quick though - once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Liam by Akse.

Liam by Akse.

Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark by Akse.

Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark by Akse.

Eleven by Akse, stares down at us from a Northern Quarter street.

Eleven by Akse, stares down at us from a Northern Quarter street.

Adrian McGarry ARPS, presents a programme of inspirational lectures, demonstrations and workshops to camera clubs, photographic societies, exhibitions, trade shows and corporate events. More details of his Manchester, Northern Quarter smartphone workshops can be found here


Wirral Festival of Firsts Smartphone Photo Competition - The Results

I have enjoyed viewing and judging the entries in Wirral Festival of Firsts Smartphone Photo Competition. May I take this opportunity to commend the vision and enthusiasm of the organisers who have recognised smartphone photography as a serious photographic art form. Choosing the winning shots was a challenge due to so many interesting entries. After much deliberation, I am pleased with my final choices and I congratulate the winners. Smartphone photography is the most popular way of taking pictures and these winning entries are proof of the quality that is achievable. In every competition there has to be losers, if you were unlucky this time then please don’t lose confidence in your shots; learn from the experience and keep pushing yourself to take more shots and develop your skills.

1st Place

On The Road To The Summit

Frédéric Deschênes

Road To The Summit - Frédéric Deschênes.jpg

I chose this photo as my winner because of its strong visual narrative that leads the viewer into a story. Even without the descriptive title, we understand that the horse-back traveller is being guided along a rocky track to the snowy peaks that lie ahead. I think the picture perfectly embodies the competition’s theme of ‘The Great Outdoors’. The composition classically follows ‘the rule of thirds’ with the subject entering the frame from the left-hand vertical third, the mountains being positioned on the top horizontal third and the track leads the viewer’s eye through the piece. Exposure is well controlled with detail throughout in both the snowy highlights and deep shadows in the foreground.

2nd Place

Concrete Wave

Steve Morris

Concrete Wave - Steve Morris.jpg

I really like the drama and detail that the photographer has captured in this photo. This concrete wall protects the local area from the forces of nature, yet beautifully reflects the very waves that it defends against. The black and white treatment is perfect for this subject.

3rd Place

Rivers Edge 3

Jeff Whitfield

Rivers Edge 3 - Jeff Whitfield.jpg

This image has a peaceful and almost spiritual feel. Shooting directly into sunlight can produce harsh highlights that may obliterate details but the photographer has done a really great job of controlling the exposure throughout this photograph of a beautiful misty forest.

4th Place

Yacht on West Kirby - Marine Lake

Luke Neale

acht on West Kirby - Marine Lake  Luke Neale.jpg

Perfect symmetry in this simple yet beautiful image. The key elements of the sky and clouds are elegantly punctuated by a lone sailboat gliding across a centrally positioned horizon. The photographer has handled the exposure of both sky and water extremely well.

Honorable Mentions

Hanging On (Ness Botanic Gardens)

Luke Neale

Hanging On (Ness Botanic Gardens) - Luke Neale.jpg

This photograph is highly engaging due to the simple centred composition and the beautiful golden tones throughout. The picture tells the story of the passing of a season and the stubbornness of the last leaf of autumn. This entry was only beaten by the quality of the winning entries, unlucky this time.

Meols Evening Light

Peter Lovatt

Meols Evening Light - Peter Lovatt.jpg

An effective use of silhouettes contrasting dramatically with a beautiful sunset. Careful attention has been applied to the position of the elements in the frame which made it a strong contender.


Claire Brewis

Contemplation - Claire Brewis.jpg

An engaging composition conveying a powerful emotive message. Careful placement of the subject allows the audience to view the same scene as the person on the bench. I personally would have liked to have seen this image in black and white.

Caledonian Trees at Sunset

Robyn Cotton

Caledonian Trees at Sunset - Robyn Cotton.jpg

Use of Golden sunlight creates a contrast against the snow covered hills and gives a captivating depth to this scene. I would have a preferred a different crop to reduce the amount of clear sky.

By The Way

Jean Murphy

By The Way - Jean Murphy

A perfect example of the quality of close-up photography taken with a smartphone. This beautiful study reminds us that the perennial nuisance to gardeners is an amazing miracle of nature. The foreground stem and leaves are an unnecessary distraction, I would have repositioned the camera to avoid them.

Welsh Maid

Helen Greenwood

Title: Welsh Maid - Helen Greenwood.jpg

Peeling paint and rusted metal are detailed under a brooding sky in this dramatic composition. Having a smartphone with you at all times allows the opportunity to capture great photos no matter what the weather. The inclusion of so much ground has made for an unbalanced composition, a slightly different angle or tighter crop would have made a big difference.

Award-winning iPhone Photographer Dina Alfasi


Dina Alfasi turns lengthy commutes into works of art

Dina Alfasi is like most commuters. As soon as she finds a seat on the train or bus, she pulls out her iPhone. Alfasi may look like she is catching up with emails, streaming music or reading the news. Instead, Alfasi is making a discreet photograph of the person across from her.

Dina Alfasi’s photographic inspiration is all around and waiting for you to find those magic moments.

Dina’s recent work studies strangers on her daily commute. Her daily photographs capture something inherently familiar in each of the strangers, lost in thought on their way somewhere.

 “I shoot mostly street scenes and portraits, trying to capture intimate moments. Every day I get to work by train and bus. For two hours every day I’m in a place with different people. At first, to pass the time, I was just observing them and trying to guess where they’re going, what they are dealing with, or what their story may be. Along with this observation, I noticed intimate moments and so I started to take photos, and I was surprised with the result.”

I first noticed Dina’s work when she was announced as a winner in the 2017 IPPA awards. Alfasi won the People category of the prestigious iPhone Photography Awards, the first and longest-running mobile photography competition.



John Bozinov's Awesome iPhone Photos From Antarctica


While most wildlife photographers capture their images using large telephoto lenses, the fixed lens of the iPhone works just fine for New Zealand born photographer John Bozinov. Spending two months down in the Antarctic Peninsula at the end of 2016, he knew it would be a great opportunity to shoot a photography project to capture the polar region landscape in a unique way. “I enjoy the simplicity of shooting on a relatively ‘basic’ camera and not thinking too much while I’m in the field taking photos, focusing and connecting solely on my subject in front of me; in some ways it helps to keep me in the moment,” Bozinov told Digital Trends.

Bozinov’s awe-inspiring images from Antartica drew praise from Apple chief executive Tim Cook on 2018’s World Photography Day. Taking to Twitter, Cook acknowledged amazing photographers around the world, singling out the work of John Bozinov.

Bozinov used no additional equipment when shooting with his iPhone. “I wanted everything to be shot on the iPhone 7 plus using the native camera app, and everything had to be edited in its entirely on the iPhone too.” he told Daily Mail Australia in 2017.

Photographing in a cold environment can be troublesome for any device’s battery life, the iPhone is no different in this respect. The compactness of the iPhone allowed Bozinov to overcome the problem by simply keeping it snug in an internal pocket between shots.


Apple Announces #shotoniPhone Winners

You can see all the winning shots on the  Apple Newsroom  with quotes from the judging panel as to why they liked the photo.

You can see all the winning shots on the Apple Newsroom with quotes from the judging panel as to why they liked the photo.

iPhone photographers from around the world shared their best photos for the Apple Shot on iPhone Challenge. The company asked for iPhone only submissions with the prize of featuring in Apple advertising on social media, in-store, and in the company's internal exhibitions. The photographers will receive a licensing fee for their work.

The winners were selected by a judging panel made up of many prominent photographers, including the chief official White House photographer for President Obama Pete Souza, photographer Austin Mann and Apple’s own Phil Schiller. The top 10 winners came from countries including Singapore, Germany, Belarus, Israel and the US, capturing colorful city scenery, curious animals, creative reflections, the beauty of the ordinary and more. The winning submissions were taken by Alex Jiang, Blake Marvin, Darren Soh, Nikita Yarosh, Dina Alfasi, Elizabeth Scarrott, Andrew Griswold, Bernard Antolin, LieAdi Darmawan, and Robert Glaser.

Apple highlights best photos shot on iPhone around the world

iPhone photographers around the world shared their best photos for the Shot on iPhone Challenge, capturing remarkable moments with the world's most popular camera. The 10 selected winners will be featured on billboards in select cities, in Apple retail stores and online.


Mobile Photography Awards Winners


The 8th annual Mobile Photography Awards attracted over 7,000 entries from smartphone photographers in more than 65 countries. Images entered into one of 20 different themed categories must have been entirely created on a smartphone or tablet. Editing or post-production on an entered image can only be undertaken using apps on a mobile device. The competition categories include landscapes, portraits, black and white, photojournalism, nature and wildlife.

The Mobile Photography Awards were founded in 2011 to recognise and celebrate the talent and imagery of the mobile photo & art communities. Alongside an annual competition there are themed exhibits with international open calls throughout the year.

This year's winning photos demonstrate just how far smartphone photography has evolved, with a stunning array of world class images. Cult of Mac report that approximately 75 percent of all entries were created on an iPhone with 10 first-place winners recorded their winning image on Apple devices.

The grand prize winner was Dominika Koszowska, a graphic designer and fine art photographer from Poland.

8th Annual MPA Grand Prize - Mobile Photography Awards

The Mobile Photography Awards is pleased to announce Dominika Koszowska as our Grand Prize Winner and the 8th annual MPA Photographer of the year, as chosen by the members of the MPA jury. .

Further Reading From Around The Web

Mobile Photo Awards

The Mobile Photography Awards is pleased to announce Dominika Koszowska as our Grand Prize Winner and the 8th annual MPA Photographer of the year, as chosen by the members of the MPA jury. As in all...

Mobile Photo Awards (@mobilephotoawards) * Instagram photos and videos

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