After successfully reaching its Kickstarter crowdfunding goal, Manchester Girls – a collaboration between image-makers Dean Davies and Vicky Olschak – is set to come to life in print for early December. The book, published by Trip, Dean’s publishing house and community that showcases less-heard and underrepresented stories, is a homage to the women that informed both the artists’ upbringings. Stylistically a marvel that sends you back in time to the 90s, Manchester Girls gives a voice to the female perspectives within Manchester’s working class heritage.
Both Vicky and Dean graduated in 2013, and shortly after they discovered each other’s work at the national graduate exhibition. Dean, whose interest in photography first stemmed from design and styling, was taken back by Vicky’s work – “it really spoke to me through its visual style, as well as the people and fashion she was choosing to depict,” he says. Vicky, in a similar vain, hadn’t really garnered her visual practice until university, where she studied fashion styling and image making at Salford University. Both, undoubtedly, share a complete adoration for the narratives told from their North Western roots.
The north has been the subject of Dean’s photography for the past six years – “and in the past three years,” he says, “my work, whether personal or commissioned, has been mostly captured in Manchester. I’m incredibly inspired by the city and its people.” As the second of Dean’s long-form projects, Manchester Girls first commenced in 2017 as an initial set of images, less so intended to ever become a long-form series and book. “After the initial photographs were taken, we knew there was so much potential for the project to further explore the idea, to represent different girls, style trends of our adolescence and present this in a quality print product.”
Over the course of two years, Dean and Vicky set about with the casting and developed the outfits for their styling, but there was much back-and-forth between the development of the series in terms of production – as so there would be for such a heavy duration. The chosen locations included Tameside, Greater Manchester, the towns of Hyde and Dukinfield (where Vicky is from) and the housing estate in Hattersley – “all areas that are often overlooked for how much character they have, and how picturesque they are.”
Resultantly, the duo cast 13 friendship groups – 34 girls in total – who were sourced via open calls on social media, were approached personally or through word-of-mouth. “I knew I wanted to feature female friendship groups within the series,” explains Dean on his choice of subject who explicitly show a strong connection between one another. Inspired by those who he and Vicky grew up with, the girls are a mix of Manchester natives and those who’ve moved to the city.
Dean grew up in Birkenhead, a working-class town in North West England. His upbringing had a mammoth influence on his photography, whereby his longing to shoot residential homes and the street stems from the fact that they were an important part of his childhood. “I have vivid memories of playing with friends on the street outside my family home, and of the fashion trends of, in particular, the female friendship groups I was surrounded by growing up,” he says. In comparison, Vicky also pulls influences from her adolescence: “I put a lot of myself and my friend into the styling – memories from my youth and the fashion that really shaped me as a stylist.” For Manchester Girls, the duo sought to represent this nostalgia while still being authentic to the Manchester girls of the past and current time.
Each girl cast within the series stands with pride, holding striking, bold and affectionate poses and wears garments that ring true to the style of the past. The series has been developed and formed out of utmost appreciation and adoration of this era. Dean concludes: “I would hope that those who view the series appreciate that this is being approached from a point of admiration – both for the city and its female residents.” Adding to this, Vicky says: “We wanted it to be a celebration of Northern style, to the girls we grew up with and to Manchester. I hope the audience sees the series and feels the same love and appreciation as we do.”