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



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MCRNQ Workshop

This smartphone photography workshop will introduce valuable techniques to take and edit shots that will instantly advance your competence and creativity in mobile photography. Discover camera basics, composition, exposure, and creative editing skills from a master iPhone photographer. Combining elements of architectural, urban landscape and street photography, the workshop offers participants a unique and memorable learning experience.


Manchester’s Northern Quarter, famous for its abundance of bars, cafes, fashion and music shops has become a popular destination as Manchester’s centre of alternative and bohemian culture. A network of narrow streets and alleys are adorned with constantly evolving street art that includes spectacular large-scale murals created by internationally-renowned artists. There is no shortage of creative inspiration here.


Born and raised in Manchester, Adrian McGarry has been photographing solely on an iPhone since 2012. His enthusiasm and passion for smartphone photography is infectious. Adrian offers a programme of lectures, demonstrations and workshops that are always in demand. With a vast experience gained in the visual creative industry, Adrian draws on his film and DSLR photographic expertise as a benchmark to capture awesome photos in everyday situations.


This workshop is designed to introduce techniques and inspiration to improve the smartphone photography skills of beginners and experienced photographers alike. Users of all makes of mobile devices are welcome.


Features of the workshop include but are not limited to:

  • Composition

  • Exposure

  • Focus

  • Urban landscape image capture

  • Practical and creative photo editing

  • Third-Party apps

The course will be limited to a small number of participants, allowing you to work at your own pace and ensuring quality time spent with Adrian.


The workshop comprises two main sessions that can be booked separately or together:


We meet at 10.30 am at a central Northern Quarter venue for coffee/tea, introductions, tuition and a thorough briefing before setting off onto the local streets.

We visit Northern Quarter locations for our image capture session, capturing the spirit and energy of the streets. Be sure to wear comfortable footwear and suitable outdoor clothing.

Dependent on weather conditions, we will have the option to photograph vibrant indoor locations.

We return to our venue for a lunch break, where there will be time to discuss your own smartphone photography questions with Adrian.


Our advanced editing session begins at 1.30 pm with a review from a selection of photographs captured during our image capture session.

Participants will follow step-by-step instruction to create stunning, professional-standard editing on their own shots. These techniques are suitable for both iOS and Android.

We will finish the workshop at approximately 3.30 pm with a thorough debrief and a final Q&A session.

Participant feedback and questions are encouraged during the workshop and after the event via website and email.



2 hours 10.30 am - 12.30pm £40 per person


2 hours 1.30 pm - 3.30pm £40 per person

FULL DAY (Best Value)

Book both sessions together for £60 per person.


11th August 2019 Book Here

25th August 2019 Book Here

8th September 2019 Book Here

22nd September Book Here

6th October 2019 Book Here

20th October 2019 Book Here

I learned a lot about using a smartphone, and found the content and pace of the workshop just right. It gave me the confidence to start using my smartphone as a proper camera.
— Workshop Participant
All in all, Adrian’s 1-1 workshops are great opportunities to learn smartphone photography and also fantastic value. I would recommend them to photographers and picture takers whatever your level of experience.
— Workshop Participant
Many thanks for putting on such a well-presented and useful workshop, I’m also impressed with the very helpful and professional follow-up email recapping on key info and links.
— Workshop Participant

Elizabeth Gaskell's House Workshop


Following the sell-out success of my 2018 iPhone Photography Workshop, Elizabeth Gaskell’s House in Manchester have invited me back to lead another workshop for 2019.


Don't miss this exciting opportunity to improve your smartphone photography skills in a unique, historical and inspirational venue. Full Details Here


iPhone Photography Workshop in North Wales


I am excited to announce my first series of iPhone photography workshops in North Wales. These one-to-one or small group sessions are designed to be tailored around your specific interests and requirements. You will learn to capture and edit stunning photos with your smartphone camera that you never thought possible! Low on jargon, high on content, my workshops are designed to get the most from your device, in a relaxed and informal way.

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I have chosen the beautiful town of Conwy, in North Wales, as the base for these workshops. There are endless opportunities to discover and inspire your creativity here. Stunning coastal scenery, a backdrop of mountains, historical architecture, bustling high streets, a picture-postcard quay and marina, the smallest house in Britain and of course the magnificent medieval castle and town walls.

Our three-hour workshop begins with a relaxed introduction to the apps, shooting techniques and principles of composition that we will be exploring throughout the day. We then embark (weather permitting) on a guided photo-walk around the areas of the town that are appropriate to your particular photographic interests. We can concentrate your time to capturing street, landscape, long exposure, sunsets or a combination of all these photographic genres.

My workshops are guaranteed to increase your understanding of the photographic features of the iPhone, iOS operating system and associated apps. Our session concludes with a review of your photos from the day, then using a host of powerful editing apps and techniques we will explore how to enhance your images and create a visual masterpiece.

I sincerely want you to enjoy the time we spend together and leave feeling that you have learnt practical and creative skills to take fabulous smartphone photos. We will schedule the workshop for a date and time that best suits you and agree a detailed itinerary in advance of your visit. There really isn’t a better way to improve your photography than by 'getting out there and doing it'.

The workshops are suitable for beginner or advanced photographers alike.


“All in all, Adrian’s 1-1 workshops are great opportunities to learn smartphone photography and also fantastic value. I would recommend them to photographers and picture takers whatever your level of experience.” — Workshop Participant

“Many thanks for putting on such a well-presented and useful workshop, I’m also impressed with the very helpful and professional follow-up email recapping on key info and links.” — Workshop Participant

This is an independent event and has not been authorised, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Apple Inc.


The price for person is £60, single bookings or groups of up to four are available.

A £20 deposit secures your place with the balance payable on the day.

Conwy Workshop Deposit
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Guest Speaking and Workshops


I frequently present a popular series of talks for camera clubs, photographic societies exhibitions, trade shows and corporate events. My presentations are designed to encourage and inspire the audience to express their creativity. Motivating others to take the next steps on their image-making journey has become my passion. Using my award winning artwork or stunning iPhone photography as a visual narrative, I engage with audiences of any size. 

Presentations can be tailored to fit your needs, usually lasting from one hour up to three hours. When you book me to present to your group or event, you can be confident that you are engaging a professional, accomplished lecturer with many years of public speaking experience.

Audience feedback and questions are encouraged both during and long after my events via my website and email. The comments that I receive are extremely positive and supportive.

What a superb evening we had with Adrian McGarry ARPS. I’m sure many of our audience were impressed with what can be achieved by a smartphone camera and editing software, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we soon see some competition entries from those who’ve previously thought their gear wasn’t “good enough”. As Adrian rightly said - the best camera in the world is the one you have with you!
— Ruthin Camera Club

I'm both thrilled and proud that my current presentations ‘Ultimate iPhone Photography' and 'Pixel Painted Art' are in high demand and many organisations book a return visit. I cover the technical and conceptual aspects of my work, sharing the inspirations and influences that shape my creative approach. My talks constantly evolve to include new methods, demonstrations and images.

iPhone Photography by Adrian McGarry

Ultimate iPhone Photography Talk

Within my iPhone photography presentations I demonstrate the potential to capture incredible photos that take mobile photography from ordinary to extraordinary both onscreen and in print.

If you don’t own an iPhone, you’ll certainly want one after Adrian’s convincing talk. You’ll be putting your DSLRs away in a cupboard!
— Chapel Camera Club
His inspiring enthusiasm and impassioned advice that we should let our creative juices flow and take photographs for ourselves and not for others will stay in the minds of members, inform their work, and increase their enjoyment of photography. The dialogue on Facebook into the early hours, by those who couldn’t wait to get home to experiment, spoke volumes about the impact of this memorable presentation in our current season of speaker evenings.
— Lancaster Photographic Society
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Pixel Painted Photo Art Talk

Created using brushstrokes and textures with software such as Corel Painter on the desktop and various apps on the iOS platform. Attendees are inspired to create photo art as gifts, greeting cards or submissions in competition.

We’ve had excellent speakers recently, without doubt yours was one of the best.
— Knutsford Photographic Society
Adrian’s work, shakes the very foundation, that many of us regard as the rock which our photography skills are based upon. A super nights’ viewing from an equally super presentation and photographer.
— South Liverpool Photographic Society

I host numerous workshops and live demonstrations; sharing my images, workflows, techniques and knowledge. I never tire of presenting inspirational workshops to groups and as individual one-to-one sessions. I believe that my enthusiasm and love for creative photography is one of the reasons why my events are so well received and always in demand.

Photography Workshops by Adrian McGarry


iPhone photography and creative photo art workshops can be created to meet a group or individual’s requirements. Learn essential photo skills, experiment with the latest apps and techniques and create your next creative masterpiece. Recommended for all skill levels.

Adrian was extremely accommodating and easy to work with right from the point of making an enquiry and everything about the day itself was well organised, relaxed and friendly. I really got the sense that Adrian wanted me to get as much as I could out of the day. All in all, this is a great 1-1 workshop opportunity and it is also fantastic value. I would recommend it to photographers and picture takers whatever your level of experience.”
— Workshop Participant

Use the form below to enquire about organising my presentations or workshops for your club, company or event.

Name *