Wednesday 21 March 2012

When Now Was Then

I love looking at old pictures of stuff – and you can quote me on that (please refer to me as Philip ‘WHATEVZ’ Bridgehouse when quoting me). Old stuff looks fucking brilliant. Whether it be a picture of a Victorian man throwing a dog at a pile of gin to impress a woman or horse being drowned or a polaroid wooden concorde flying into the night sky of 1906 London, I fucking love pictures of old stuff. That’s why I follow @mcrarchives on Twitter and love flicking through their Flickr archive (Twiter and Flickr: I am so fucking new media/social network savvy aren’t I? It would be impressively cutting edge of me were this 2009).

Think old pictures are rubbish and I am talking nonsense? Look at this you mutha.
LS Lowry in New Cross, 1968

It is fucking brilliant. It’s just a brilliant photograph; the shades, tones composition (and other words I have heard other people say about photographs). Yeah, it is LS Lowry walking up a cobbled terrace in 1968 Salford with some factories in the background and that is brilliant in itself as well. But let is not underestimate what is the best thing in the picture/about the picture: look at that fella leaning against the wall. Yes, you’re right, he is absoltotally fucking magnifibrill. He’s just leaning there like the cock of the walk, probably thinking “fuck off you matchstick fuck”. Probably. He is awesome, though. Look at his tiny body and ruthless chin, I want to know his life story.

Other best thing about this picture: DRINK VIMTO HERE sign.

There doesn’t have to be a small man leaning on the corner of a street to make an old picture brilliant. I am endlessly interested in looking at pictures of olden times and comparing them to now and looking at the massive differences and the subtle ones. Look at this picture of (what is now) Picadilly Train station, then London Road Station,
London Road Station (now known as Piccadilly Station), 1912

It is a great snapshot of Manchester city centre 100 years ago; more specifically what is now the station approach hill up to Manchester’s best train station (sorry Victoria, that’s my opinion). You can the instant differences: mainly everything. Where are the cars? They weren’t even common place in 1912 you idiot: instead people used special carts with invisible engines that pushed horses around, at least that is my understanding of the technology. There are still loads of these horse-pushing carriages where we used to see taxis lined up (did people taking old fashioned taxis still ask the driver if they had been busy? Or ask them when they were off? And did the drivers have a kit to clean the seats after students had been sick over them after playing pub golf?).

Look at that: there are DOUBLE-DECKER TRAMS! The old fashioned idiots, you don’t need two decks. These old trams used to go all over Manchester. It would take 90 years and modern uberthinking to realise that Bury to Eccles was the only route that needed a decent and viable tram link (and then not really do great and realise making it link up good places like Didsbury and Chorlton might be a good idea). And the bridges have not been built yet over Fairfield Street. What were they thinking?

The signs are also great. Which do you think has survived the 100 years, Grotto Cafes or Sutton Seeds? Think about it – people love cafes and who buys seeds? It’s definitely the cafes isn’t it? Ha! You’re wrong, Sutton Seeds is the one that is still going – and it had already been going 100 years then. It goes to show that when advertising in 1912 Manchester a big white sign on the corner that grabs the eye wont make your business survive another 100 years, it’s a small, more subtle black one that will prove best. That and selling seeds.

There are also no shops on the station approach hill selling second-hand smart phones, that is the other difference you might have spotted between then and now.

Because the photo is only dated by year one cannot be sure if it is before after the Titanic sank in April of that year, which was the 9/11 of its time. Certainly nothing happened in this decade which would inspire as many films and (less importantly) world changing significance. So, I don’t know if this will have had an effect on the scene: one thing is for sure, there are no boats in the picture: FACT.

I have definitely proved that looking at old pictures is brilliant. Enjoy looking through them why don’t you? The Manchester Archives Flickr is very interesting and offers this amazing glimpse into what life was like in Chorlton back in 2011. Crazy eh? No iPad3s on that picture. I wonder if that undeniably dull picture will still seem such a very pointless addition to the pictures in another 100 years. I wont be alive to be proved wrong when I say that I really doubt it.

Both images © Manchester Libraries and were sourced (it’s not a word) at

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