The LEGACY Issue: The photographers capturing Manchester’s music legacy

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Featured image and gallery: Gracie Hall

No barriers, no fuss: just up close and personal with the city’s hottest up-and-coming artists. Picture The Pink Room at YES, at capacity with barely enough room to swing a cat when the next big thing takes to the stage. Pints fly, photographers duck for cover and sweaty mosh pits swallow singers with perfect cheekbones whole.

Manchester’s music scene has a long history of shaping careers and aAh! Magazine’s music photography team are building their own legacy in the capital of the North. Georgina Hurdsfield studied psychology and joined the aAh! team as a music photographer back in 2017. She still volunteers for the magazine as a graduate, coordinating aAh! Live – the magazine’s live music section alongside aAh! project coordinator and senior lecturer Natalie Carragher.

Georgina says: “I have been with the team since 2017 when the magazine was called Humanity Hallows. I became aware of the magazine during my second year when I saw they were running a photography competition. I went on to cover my first gig for aAh! Magazine, Lukas Graham at Manchester Academy in March that year.”

Natalie says: “Georgina’s work has shaped the success of our music section, and her commitment to the project long after graduation means she has paved the way for students to follow in her footsteps and build stunning portfolios.

“She is a hugely talented photographer and an inspiring individual to work alongside, and she has helped build a vast network of industry contacts. As well as that, she has mentored our undergraduate students to provide a springboard into the industry for countless members of our team.”

Since aAh! got its first press pass, the team has covered it all, from historic Band On The Wall gigs to Victoria Warehouse at full capacity. With photographers and writers regularly attending Leeds Festival, AO Arena, Gorilla and YES, aAh’s music journalists and photographers have built up impressive portfolios. Georgina alone has covered names such as The 1975, Maisie Peters, Blink 182 and Little Simz.

Along the current roster of live snappers is final year photography student Ben Redshaw, who joined the magazine a year ago and volunteers alongside studying for his degree. He has photographed more than 35 gigs since joining the team.

“Some of my favourites have been Tom Grennan, Busted, and Lucy Spraggan,” he says. “But if I had to pick one special moment from them all it would be the first gig I did, at Manchester’s AO Arena with Westlife.” Ben had some prior experience working with Hard Rock Café on small gig nights, but this was his first big shoot.

In October 2023, Gracie Hall was introduced to the team by Ben, at a We Three gig. Gracie, a Future Media Production student from Manchester, had been working for Melophile Media when they met. Her first gig shoot for them was Joker Out at Club Academy. Having a soft spot for indie venues, Gracie predominantly works at smaller shows for aAh! Magazine.

My visual favourite is definitely Deadletter. I really enjoy working at YES Pink Room because of the amazing lighting. Non-barrier gigs are my favourite to work, because the first gigs I ever went to were emo-rock shows,” says Gracie. “Plus my camera is super light so I can get away with being in mosh pits.”

Gracie’s incredible Deadletter shoot at YES captures the ethereal glow around the band and the raw passion of the night with the band crowd surfing, roaring and riling up the mosh pits.

Gracie was already an admirer of Georgina’s work before she joined the team. “Georgina has actually been a massive inspiration to me – I’ve been following her since 2020,” says Gracie. “So working with her has been great, and the community around the team is amazing. It’s allowed me access to a lot of gigs I wouldn’t have been to otherwise, like Ashniko and Don Broco.”

Even though Georgina, Ben and Gracie are all from Manchester, working as photographers for aAh! Live has opened up new perspectives for them. The industry creative network built up offers fantastic opportunities to students and an opportunity to be part of Manchester’s music legacy.

Ben says: “Photographing for aAh! has helped my career as a photographer substantially! I have been given countless opportunities to photograph my favourite bands and new artists, and make connections with other photographers and creative people along the way.

Gracie says: “Building a new legacy is really important to me. I love the heritage of Manchester’s music scene and you can see that in artists now. Seeing the past impacting the present is amazing and I love being able to capture it. People underestimate how important chronicling things is.”

These photographers are already establishing a name for themselves; Georgina has become part of the official image teams for some of the festivals she shot with aAh!

A standout moment in my aAh! journey was covering Leeds Festival in 2019,” says Georgina. “It was a surreal opportunity to photograph some of my favourite artists, including The Story So Far, Basement, Joji, CHVRCHES and Sea Girls. I used to attend a lot when I was younger, so it was a full circle moment being there with a press pass.”

Georgina continues: “Following my coverage of Live at Leeds Festival and Leeds Festival in 2019, I submitted my work to the festivals, which ultimately led to my inclusion in their official photography teams. Since 2021 I’ve been a part of both festivals’ teams. These opportunities are particularly significant to me as both festivals have a special place in my heart.

“I’m so grateful when I go back to these festivals. I remember the joyful memories I had made there working for aAh! Live and I create new ones – for me and other people – while doing my favourite thing.”

Georgina speaks about the role of aAh! in her development as a photographer within the industry: “I always tell everyone I wouldn’t be where I am now without aAh! Magazine. Working with the magazine has been an invaluable learning experience. I have photographed more than 50+ gigs/festivals for aAh! It has honed my skills in communication with PR and industry professionals, navigating photo pit etiquette, capturing shows of varying scales, and crafting compelling reviews. I attribute my current position and skillset to the knowledge and expertise gained through photographing for the magazine.”

Among the huge moments captured at the 2023 Leeds Festival by Georgina were sets by Billie Eilish, Loyle Carner and Ethel Cain – an example of the incredible journey she has been on since she picked up her first aAh! Live pass.

Speaking on the privilege of documenting musicians artistic journeys, Georgina hopes her photos will hold nostalgia for our generation in years to come: “I want aspiring photographers to have the same opportunity, support and knowledge starting out. I would love for them to envision a future where they too can shoot for their favourite festivals or tour with an artist.”

About the author / 

Jess Berry

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