Richard Davis captured under the Hulme Archway. Credit - Makenna Ali

Famous photographer Richard Davis shares his fascination with Hulme

Sat in a coffee shop in Hulme famous photographer Richard Davis shares the story behind his Hulme photography collection book which documents the inner-city area from the 1980s to the 1990s.

Richard Davis is a British born in Birmingham photographer and social documentary based in the North. He is known for his famous Hulme photographs. Richard explains this year is his 40th anniversary of picking up a camera, “It’s really dominated my life and I just fell in love with it”.

Richard has always been interested in the arts, music, and cinema. He wanted to be a painter but unfortunately for him he was not good at painting or drawing. He then gravitated towards which he thought was the next best thing.

Richard shares in the 80s a choice had to be made between black and white or colour, and he was living in a black and white world. His favourite black and white films are Wim Wenders Wings of Desire and Down by Law Jim Jarmusch. He says: “They were both cinematic in terms of wide angled, vast expansive compositions. I drifted into photography to replicate that cinematic feel in my photography”.

Richard’s Fascination with Hulme

Richard moved to Manchester when his was 22 into Manchester Polytechnic’s (now Manchester Met) Cavendish Halls overlooking Hulme. He explains he was warned by the university not to go into Hulme which is ironic because now most of the university’s student accommodation is in Hulme.

Richard moved because of ‘Madchester’ music scene. One band that convinced him to move was Joy Division, an English rock band formed in Salford in 1976. Joy Division links to Hulme, he says: “There is a photograph that really got me going with photography. It’s Joy Division on a snowy Hulme Bridge. It’s a desolate landscape taken by Kevin Cummins in 1989”.

Richard’s first night out was in the city centre to see AC Temple. He says, “Every person I met that night lived in Hulme or had a connection with Hulme. Combine that with Joy Division. I just knew how important Hulme was going to be for me and Manchester”.

“There is something magical and mystical going on in Hulme”

Photographer, Richard Davis

Richard got invited to two pubs in the heart of Hulme to see various bands play. Once it was known he was a photographer within about three or four months he got offered a squat in Hulme.

Film photography was not like how it is now. There was no mobile phones or digital cameras, Richard describes it as “purely chemistry”. He moved from the hall residence and into the heart of Hulme where he set up his dark room. That’s where he photographed the likes of Steve Coogan, Caroline Aherne, John Thompson and Lemn Sissay.

The three versions of Hulme

Richard always knew Hulme is different, “What I’ve loved about my relationship with Hulme, doing photographs and having my book out is just what a unique place Hulme. I can’t think of any other place in the UK that has had three different versions in just a 50-year period”.

A lot of photographers have documented Hulme over the years. Shirley Baker photographed the first version of Hulme which is like the terrace streets. She documented the time just before they were knocked down to build the Hulme crescents which Richard lived in.

The second version of Hulme was photographed by Richard as he captured the rawness of Hulme in the 1980s

The third version of Hulme is present-day Hulme.

Hulme 1980s – 90s by Richard Davis

Richard took many photographs in the late 1980s, but unfortunately everything has been refurbished. He says, “Everything I have photographed, gone. If I had known this, I would’ve taken even more photos”.

British Culture Archive published photos of the second version of Hulme without knowing Richard is the photographer. When Richard reached out, British Culture Archive did a feature piece on him which lead to the publication of his photographs. Café Royal Books, a photographic book publisher got in touch and was keen to have his work published.

Hulme 1980s to 1990 by Richard Davis. Credit – Richard Davis

Richard still photographs in Hulme. He shares, “I will always be photographing Hulme because it gave me a gift”. He feels as if he owes Hulme stating: “I know I was lucky with Hulme. It’s always going to play a part in my story wherever I go. Hulme is close to the centre of everything I do. Hulme is a part of me”.

“Till my dying day I will always have some connection with Hulme, and I will always be photographing here”

Photographer, Richard Davis

Richard’s book, Hulme 1980s – 90s is now on its second print. Buy a copy online or pick up your copy at the Hulme Community Garden Centre