Changing faces of Manchester – Interview with Deniss Gimbickis

  • NQ's Jack Park caught up with Russian-born photographer, Dennis Gimbickis

Manchester has changed. The city is unrecognisable compared to one hundred years ago when everyone wore suits and having a coffee shop down an alleyway was unheard of. Hipsters were nowhere to be seen and the attitudes of the people shaped the views of the north greatly.

Photographs of the city back then connotes how creativity wasn’t rife in the city and if you told anyone back then that you could take a great photo and become famous through your phone, they would ask what a phone was then still not believe you.

The thing I have noticed that has changed the most is the amount of international talent that has come to Manchester and how the city has embraced the world and becoming a jewel in the world's crown. The city hosts many international events such as the Christmas markets, the international markets, various football games that bring in a whole host of people and having our own airport has helped also.

Photography in the various boroughs of Manchester has taken on a new life and alongside the launches of popular apps such as VSCO and Instagram, anyone can tell a story through a photo and bring the city to life. The last ten years especially have made the second city into a gem for taking photos, projects and boosting the popularity of the various photography courses that the colleges and universities here offer. I hear the Manchester School of Art has a good course.

Last year I interviewed photographer Deniss Gimbickis about life in Manchester. A year later I caught up with Deniss to find out more about his life and how Manchester as a city and a hub of culture has affected his work.

The 25-year old photographer from Latvia and is currently residing in the Northern Quarter. He is Russian born and came to England a few years ago to study graphic design but quickly moved over to his true love of photography.

I probed into how social media has helped Deniss promote himself in and around the city and the UK, he told me: “When I first came to Manchester I was working for free for a while to build my portfolio, I started using Instagram to show off my work and soon after I had people emailing me about work.

"I like to follow others on the service to create connections and I have also used Adobe Behance to find two French interns that wanted to shadow me, they worked with me for three months and then went home to Lyon. I like to think of things like that as building friendships, more than just the work.”

He has always been interested in photography and during his first year at university decided to drop out, move to Manchester and focus on photography and video making.

He is currently working freelance after the studio he worked at closed, something that has given him an opportunity to “explore the city more than ever before”.

He said: “I like it when I’m contacted for freelance work, it makes the job more interesting.”

Deniss also commented on why he chose Manchester as the place to “make it” and he replied that “Manchester is a great city and there are plenty of opportunities here if you look hard enough.”

During our interview Deniss also stated what equipment he uses on his shoots: “Day to day I travel with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and a 1.8 lens. This was also my first camera.

"I was also told that to take good photos you don’t even need an expensive camera, the camera on your iPhone or Samsung can work just as well as long as the natural lighting is good and you have a steady hand.”

“Most of my photos are planned, I tend to look online for inspiration and then recreate the shots as I want. I love taking photos of people and I feel as though above anything a photo has to convey emotion as well as telling a good story.”

Deniss also talks about the photographers he admires, particularly the work of Tom Hoops and Sergei Sarakhanov. When Deniss doesn’t have his camera to hand he will take photos  on his iPhone and VSCO Cam. VSCO Cam is an app for iOS and Android phones which allows users to add professional quality filters and tweaks to photos that you would normally pay hundreds of pounds for.

“This really helps the transition between desktop and mobile, in shooting and editing. It also syncs all your photos and works well with Lightroom so it really is a must if you’re serious about photography.”

Deniss has yet to get any work in an exhibition but all hope isn’t lost. Since switching to freelance work has increased and he keeps submitting work to be featured around the city. He is part of a large photographic community in Manchester that “helped a lot especially after coming from a foreign country and not really knowing what to do when coming to Manchester.”

If you visit his portfolio website, you can see a lot of work has been done on people and portraits. I was told that normally the use of the studio is the only thing that has to be paid for so shoots can range from £50 to £500 and up. As well as working hard in Manchester, Deniss has also travelled to many places in and out the UK for photography projects.

Taking all this into account, I think that it is pretty clear that Manchester has cemented itself as a key player in the photography industry and hopefully more talent will stray from the conventional city of London and take note of the opportunities and student talent that the north has to offer.

You can view more galleries of how the city used to look here: