The Fin, 2011

Way back in 2011, I was fascinated by the buildings in Manchester – mainly the Victorian and Edwardian commercial architecture. There was lots to go at, and much that was in an attractive state of dilapidation. But there’s lots of modern buildings too and I regret not photographing more while I was there.

Way back in 2011, I was fascinated by the buildings in Manchester – mainly the Victorian and Edwardian commercial architecture. There was lots to go at, and much that was in an attractive state of dilapidation. But there’s lots of modern buildings too and I regret not photographing more while I was there.

The Department of Justice building is one of those and a lot more interesting than I realised at the time. Visually striking with vertical layers of structure, cantilevered floors, glass wall. But also engineering – heating, ventilation, sound deadening. These days I would spend more time researching the building before taking photographs.

My response back in 2011 was to capture the heady experience of looking upwards at the glazed wall with fins of glass and metal protruding. Rotating the camera frame and stretching the fin out along the long diagonal turns it from a building into something quite different. It could be the underside of an aircraft wing, or more fancifully, some imaginary overhang on a cliff, something from my climbing youth. It engenders for me feelings of exposure and giddiness, the sensation of nothing below one’s feet, nothing to stop you falling off. Similar to the sensations you feel climbing over the limestone overhangs of Kilnsey Crag and Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales.

Certainly when I first worked on this image the vertiginous experience was almost overwhelming. I would sit at my computer and feel quite dizzy. There’s something about the delicate lattice work in the fin holding itself up against the sky, disappearing out into the clouds that feels almost fragile.

The image itself is something of a confection with much editing out of encroaching neighbour buildings and unhappy reflections. But the editing is only there to emphasise the main story – that of soaring ambition overcoming gravity and fear of falling. Just like a rock climb in fact.

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