New exhibition of Polaroids to document Stretford and its community

From Stretford With Love features community photos taken over the space of a year

By Manchester's Finest | 20 February 2023

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We live in a world of smartphones, with almost every gathering captured in megapixels, photos taken umpteen times to get them ‘just right’. But the romance of a Polaroid picture is still strong. Those risky, instamatic shots, once named for being so impressively quick to develop are nowadays far less instant than everything else in our modern lives. 

Polaroids have a vintage, imperfect charm that makes them a fascinating way to capture real life and a new exhibition which features a whole load of them has gone on display in Stretford.

The exhibition, From Stretford With Love, is the culmination of a year-long, “people-powered” photography project. Polaroid photos were taken by the people of Stretford over the course of a year as “a love letter to the town” from the people that live there.

Simon Buckley at the launch of From Stretford With Love. Image: Bruntwood

The exhibition is curated by Salford-based artist Simon Buckley of Not Quite Light whose dawn and dusk photography of Manchester has been widely praised. 

The project was launched in July 2021 when Simon and the Stretford Town Centre team joined members of the Stretford community to set about documenting a year in the town through their own eyes. Simon worked with each resident to teach them how to capture the perfect photograph on the Polaroid camera – gifted to the community by Bruntwood and Trafford Council. 

After the first session, the photographic relay began, and each week participants took their turn with the camera, capturing their own ‘photo diary’ of their life and the town centre that week. Each collection of photographs has been carefully chosen by Buckley and will be presented alongside a soundtrack of the sounds and voices of Stretford. 

Participant Natalie Dagnall with the Polaroids. Image: Bruntwood

The team behind the project say the material “captures a huge range of experiences and viewpoints, with each artist bringing their own unique vision as to what life in Stretford is like for them. From family tea and community parades to signage, landmarks, beloved pets and long-lost graves. The resulting collection is a rich social and artistic record of life in the town.”

The project is also a celebration of how Stretford is set to change over the coming years with Bruntwood and Trafford Council’s plans to to transform the town centre. 

An artistic render of the proposed transformation of Stretford town centre. Image: Bruntwood

Andrea George, Bruntwood’s Director of Town Centres & Consumer Brands said: “From Stretford With Love is dedicated to the local community and is a celebration of all things Stretford. Every single person who has taken part has contributed to the  beauty of this portrayal of everyday life, and the images have come together to create a stunning collection. A big thanks must go to the participants and to Simon Buckley who has worked tirelessly to bring the whole project together. It’s a tribute that will stand the test of time and Bruntwood is immensely proud to be a part of it.”

Simon Buckley added: “I’m genuinely delighted by the final collection of polaroid images, and the stories they tell when all placed together. The project encapsulates a moment in time creating a unique view of everyday life through both images and sounds. Stretford has an extraordinary community spirit, and this is very evident when you see the work, and the enthusiasm with which it was created.”

From Stretford With Love is now open to the pubic at Stretford Public Hall – please check opening times at the hall before your visit. Entry is free. The exhibition will eventually live permanently at a location in Stretford Town Centre.

Art Photography Stretford