In among the revelry and shenanigans at last weekend’s Manchester Pride, pockets of calm and reflection could be found. Tucked away in the LGBT Foundation, Precinct Seager Galvez-Soto – one of the foundation’s health and wellbeing workers – presented a small but perfectly formed collection of his work entitled Snapshots Of My Mind In A Manchester Home, attracting a stream of visitors including Sir Ian McKellen no less.
Given his first camera aged just seven, Galvez-Soto began treating photography more seriously a couple of years ago, taking images of a city he loves and sharing them with friends. Northern Soul spoke to Galvez-Soto just before his exhibition opened to find out where it all began.
“My hobby grew when I put a few of my photographs on social media. People started asking me about them and I began to enjoy it more and more. I needed something to take my mind away from issues I had going on at the time and I thought a creative hobby would be fun. I didn’t think beyond the fact that I just knew I wanted to take pictures.
“Eventually I started receiving requests, sometimes for a copy of an image someone could print onto canvas for their walls, other times for me to take a picture of their favourite view or building. Buildings became my forte – older buildings in particular can look so beautiful and reveal so much history. I believe that every good picture should tell a story. It may not be the same story as I see or you see but that’s the brilliance of it and that’s what I really want to get out of my photography.”
Having spent more than half his life in Manchester and in the gay village in particular, I wondered how much this and the Pride weekend had influenced Galvez-Soto’s choice of exhibition pictures.
“As soon as I saw the images I knew which had to be in. The village is my life. This is my home and I’m really proud of it. I’ve been here 21 years since I was 15. I used to live on the streets and did what I had to do to survive but it made me who I am today so being openly gay and the village is everything to me. I still have friends from the early years who looked out for me.
“Some of the pictures are about those friends, but I want people to experience their own feelings when they see them. The beauty of it is when people zone in on different things in a picture and that’s what makes it so interesting, that it’s personal to each individual. When that happens I’ve achieved my goal.
“Each image is a snapshot of my mind. I give a broad overview of what the collection is about but deep down there are other personal meanings, in particular different issues around mental health that have affected me in the past and still do today. I hope people can look at these issues in a positive light as that’s a part of what I want my pictures to do.”
He adds: “I also want people to look, smile and be happy. A lot of what I talk about is expressing your feelings. How you truly feel is a big key. My best work is when I’m in an absolute zone. If I’m not feeling great I’ll still go out, take a photograph and, if I’ve done it right, my mood sort of comes out in that photograph. It’s a representation of how I truly feel. Taking pictures has now become part of my life and it makes me happy.”
All but one of the pictures is in monochrome and features people rather than the buildings Galvez-Soto is more used to capturing. Surely a bold move for a first exhibition?
“I’m still learning and I wanted to feature people to build my confidence a bit more. The themes the exhibition is based around required people to express health and wellbeing issues, particularly as an everyday thing that affects different types of people. Black and white strips things bare and helps create that mood. Life minus all the big colours. I also love to experiment so I guess I’m in my mono phase!
“The best pictures are the unguarded ones. My absolute favourite is The Laugh. It features a person I didn’t actually know caught in the moment laughing at a joke, unaware I was there. I took another two posed shots after that but it just wasn’t the same. The dynamic had changed. Another favourite is Just A Moment. I was taking pictures of a building with a friend of mine. He was sitting on the roof thinking about something and I brought him into shot because it just really worked. It is posing to a degree but he’s looking and thinking about something and I tried to capture the thought and what’s going on inside.
“In this day and age with the selfies and people posing, I think it distances us from the subject matter. It just becomes someone mugging for the camera. When you’re looking at something not posed it tells real stories.”
Everyone has influences and ambitions and Galvez-Soto is no different.
“There are three Manchester-based photographers that I look up to and have learned a lot from – Lee Baxter, Lee Johnson and Kelvin Lee Gray. I really admire them and they’ve been really supportive of me. Every time I pester them with questions they’re always there and it’s nice when people like that encourage you. I also love the work of Vivienne Maier though I try not to copy anyone as it’s important to find your own way.
“I want to be a credible photographer capturing a mixture of buildings and people. I want to continue to learn and experiment and I’d love to travel more. I have been commissioned to do stuff and I do on occasion but I’m still learning my craft so at the moment I tend to do stuff for close friends and some volunteering just to build my profile.
“Just seeing my pictures on the wall here makes me feel more confident that I can sell my work and that’s a big thing for me because I’m not someone who likes to blow his own trumpet. I still look at my work and think it could have been better but I think you should always feel like that and strive to improve. I just hope people feel some emotion from my work. That’s the most important part for me.”
By Drew Tosh
All pictures copyright of Precinct Seager Galvez-Soto 2015
For more information on Galvez-Soto or to buy prints of his work contact:
The LGBT Foundation, Richmond Street, Manchester or call 0345 330 3030
You can also contact him and see more of his work on Facebook