Local photographer Sue Southern putting Stockport in focus
PUBLISHED: 13:17 05 May 2011 | UPDATED: 12:01 28 February 2013
Photographer Sue Southern explains how she grew to love her new home town by walking the streets with her camera
As a photographer I prefer bleak terrain, rugged coastlines and wild moors to tame suburbia with high rise buildings and cats. But arriving in Stockport on a cold autumnal day on the brink of what is now known to have been the worst winter in 100 years proved to be the moment my views began to change.
We didnt make the move from Derbyshire lightly, but decided that a move to another county would hardly be traumatic by comparison to other live changing decisions wed made over the years, like traversing continents for seven years.
I was familiar with Cheshire and loved the fact that we would be closer to the coast and lakes. These places lend themselves to stunning imagery and I was looking forward to having more time to explore the region.
However, I wasnt anticipating a commission that would change my attitude towards town centres, and in particular Stockport town centre.
There was to be a demolition and re-build in the centre of town and Ponsonby House would become Fred Perry House. The demolition was an exciting process to watch and I was in awe of the exact science of it all and ultimately fascinated by its demise. However, Fred Perry House was soon to fill its place, an ultra-modern building emerging from the rain, snow, wind and dust. Tall, shiny and looking splendid in its new surroundings I felt a surge of relief that it was all over and I actually liked it!
The job wasnt quite done though and mine had just begun. The architect wanted to add a touch of the old Stockport and blend its past into its interiors. A commendable idea but at that time I knew Stockport like I knew what my daughter was doing on a Saturday night.
There was a deadline too but the weather doesnt obey deadlines and cares even less about a photographer praying for a decent blue sky. The list of nine buildings spread across town appeared daunting but once I began I was amazed at what I saw as I walked with my neck arched looking above and beyond the shop fronts and into the delights of Edwardian and Victorian architecture.
Maybe it was the sun spangled shadows that danced and displayed these majestic buildings at their best. Whatever it was, I spent two full days and took more than 500 photographs of everything from the viaduct to the Co-operative building.
It was an amazing journey and the nine buildings became 20, including a fabulous montage depicting work during medieval times. It was black with mould in places but otherwise quite stunning.
The saddest and most disturbing of all was the high volume of To Let signs. If this degeneration continues then what will happen to Stockport? The mighty Manchester can surely not absorb a local community and its workforce? And will Stockports unique historical past be lost too?
Finally, my work was complete and some chosen images were transferred onto glass panels and placed in Fred Perry House. If, in the near future, someone is mad enough to seal the fate of any of these delightful buildings and landmarks then at least there is a record of their former glory.
Sue has travelled extensively across Asia and North America and has lived in Saudi Arabia and France. She was given her first camera when she was 12 and was inspired by her grandfather, an amateur photographer. She said I have been a keen amateur until fairly recently when I decided I wanted to be a professional photographer. My grandfather would be proud of my achievements and my passion to record life around me has never abated thanks to him.