The Stones of Manchester is a visual record of the built environment of Greater Manchester, an urban region of 493 square miles in the northwest of England and comprised of ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan, and the cities of Manchester and Salford. Created in 1974 as the result of the Local Government Act of 1972, Greater Manchester was designated a City Region in 2011 and is now governed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
All of the 4,000 photographs on this site are by Paul Dobraszczyk - a researcher, writer and photographer based in Manchester. Focusing on a wide range of visual typologies - from banks to viaducts - the site moves away from standard approaches to documenting the buildings of cities that tend to concentrate on well-known landmarks, urban centres, or works by leading architects. Instead, this site develops from a place of curiosity as to what might characterise the city as a whole - in the case of Greater Manchester, a widely varied patchwork of urban fabric that constitutes an entire metropolitan region. Of course, there’s much that differentiates Greater Manchester and, for many, the very definition defies their feelings and experience of the places in which they live.; yet, there’s also much that unifies - unexpected recurrences of forms and textures that suddenly reveal something larger, namely a shared history.
From the early 19th century onwards, Manchester became the centre of a large geographic region defined by one industry: the spinning and weaving of cotton. As the cotton industry grew, the city became the hub of a vast network of production that took in hundreds of towns and villages in the whole region, each of which would send its goods to the urban centre for marketing and export. Even as the cotton industry went into catastrophic decline after the Second World War, the region around Manchester has remained unified by a well-established infrastructural network, both above and below ground. Thus, although the creation of Greater Manchester in 1974 and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in 2011 can be seen as acts that ignored the local in favour of a generalised identity and centralised forms of administration, they nevertheless reflect a historical reality that defined a whole region. This site doesn’t seek to ride roughshod over local identities but rather to find connections in what actually exists - the many distinct places on the ground that have nevertheless agglomerated over time into a conurbation.
The images were mostly collected through walking the streets, week in, week out, and, over the course of several years, I've covered at least 500 miles in over 150 walks and built up an archive of over 13,000 images. The site is not an attempt at an exhaustive visual record of the built environment; rather, it's more of an invitation to see the city anew; to connect up diverse and fragmentary views; to embrace the commonplace, often ignored things that constitute the basis of what we feel makes the city belong to us.
All of the photographs published on this site are available for purchase, whether for private or commercial use. Please do contact me for further information.