Photoessay: John Rylands, Manchester

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I had a very small amount of time between meetings during a recent visit to Manchester; one of the buildings on my to-shoot list is (was, I guess) the John Rylands Library. It’s an interesting mix of new and old, much in the same kind of style as the British Museum, and to a lesser extent, the Louvre. The new part is very new; stark, minimalist and somewhat Escheresque in places; the old part is very much Gothic (though built in the late 19th Century, and opened in 1900). The detailing and finesse of the stonework is both delicate and extremely detailed; it’s an absolutely beautiful building to photograph. It’s also sensitively lit inside, too. Whilst photography is permitted, tripods aren’t, so one has to be either very steady – or find something to brace against*. The oculus/ring/gallery in the last shot is a personal favourite feature: you almost expect a portal to another dimension to open from time to time (but only during visiting hours, 10am-5pm Monday-Friday, closes 2pm Saturday). MT

*I can’t help but think an E-M1.2 and 12-100 with its incredible stabiliser combination would have been perfect here.

This series was shot with a preproduction Hasselblad X1D, 45 and 90mm lenses, and post processed with Photoshop and Lightroom Workflow III. Roam vicariously with T1: Travel Photography. and the How to See series.

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here


More info on Hasselblad cameras and lenses can be found here.


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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Jorge Balarin. says:

    I like specially the gothic part. Spectacular quality.

  2. Thanks for the post, and mention of the building. I wouldn’t have known about this building without your post. Hope to visit it someday.

  3. Thanks for the post and your site Ming.
    I liked the beam of light passing through the couple in the 7th photo, great use of the refracted off the glass partition to direct the viewer to the subject.

    * I can attest to the image stabilisation in the Olympus bodies, the 5 axis IS worked well on the weekend when I tested a ZEISS ZF 2/28 on the EM5 at the Museum [even one handed due to a broken collar bone gave me some passable results!].

  4. Hello Ming, it is always refreshing to visit with you. It is either something thought provoking or a visual tour of an unknown place to sweep away the ho-hum of “every day”. These images made me sad, actually! Does modern means Sterile?
    Sure, there is beauty in squares and all the colour one wants, as long as it is WHITE! But where is the SONG? The soul that demanded those lines, the perfections cut in stone? So much expressed joy and beauty molded in stone, just for a quiet place to read!
    Thank you for continuing with your posts.
    All the best! Tony

    • I can’t answer that. I do agree that perhaps modern is a bit sterile…it seems the best it can do is blend with the environment rather than contribute to it. ‘Safe’ seems to be the order of the day.

  5. Great work! Personnaly I’m more attracted by the natural lines of the Ghotic architecture. Number 8 would be the one for me. The absence of a visible direct light source I guess. Gives the image a more time less aspect. The archtectural photography of Bruce Barnbaum comes to mind. The last one in this series is a very strong image! Two era’s meeting. ..

  6. Stunning!

  7. Modern brightness versus the dark gloomy prospects of ancient academia? A message or assumption here somewhere?

  8. Amazing, incredibly rich and detailed, Ming. Bravo!

  9. Great work. Makes it look as if the university is in a good place right now.
    Sadly it isn’t. The university is laying off lots of its academic staff. An absolute disgrace. Nothing to do with Brexit, despite their claims.

    • That’s unfortunate. It’s seemed like the UK universities have been suffering for some time now, though…

      • Not really. Thriving despite pressure from government.

        • Hmm, that’s not the impression I got from my alma mater…

          • Depends what you mean by suffering. Oxbridge will always be fine, and benefactions will step up. Sciences may lose out on EU funding, though.
            Working on the inside on a day-to-day basis in a UK university basis gives me a more complex picture; one that seems to be changing by the day, too.

            • Compared to the US universities, we have nowhere near the same resources – and it shows…

              • Oh yes, absolutely certain! Only Oxbridge in the UK anywhere near competitive. But amazing fact remains that Russell Group UK universities are competitive across all academic benchmarks: great strength, that needs to be reinforced to government as hard and as frequently as possible across all channels!

  10. richard majchrzak says:

    …gasp..what space and light / shadows.another great , MrMing, thank you

  11. Impressive and inspirational work Ming! On another note, I’m happy to see that you continue with your blog, flickr account, etc… Was a little afraid that your assignment at Hasselblad would bring all of that in jeopardy. Cheers, Rudy.

  12. i studied in Manchester, lived there 5 years & me & my pal would often go here just to walk around & talk. It was a free & tirelessly beautiful environment to capture someone & we would spend hours in there. Great pics.

    • Agreed – actually seems like a great place to escape and read a book for a few hours…you feel as though you’re stepping back in time.

  13. Great photos!
    I don’t really do architectural photography so its interesting to see the composition and framing of those who do!
    Really great stuff!


  1. […] John Rylands Library, Manchester. X1D-50c, 45mm – place aside, think of the concept of a library: the […]

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