Stefan Boness’ Southern Street is the latest in a series of books by the Berlin and Manchester based photojournalist that deals with urban development within present-day Manchester
The book shows a single street within the Salford area of Manchester. The Victorian redbrick terraced houses that line the street appear to be uniform; they are all load-bearing brick, all ‘one up-one down’ and they are all boarded-up awaiting demolition.
The initial introduction is followed up with a series of photographs of Southern Street, which take the reader along the road, witnessing each abandoned house, culminating in their demolition and the emptiness left behind in the spaces where the homes once stood.
In the introduction Boness asks the reader to search for the personal touches on each building facade. This close inspection gives the reader a sense of the lifestyle, culture and interests of the people who once lived in these condemned dwellings.
Rather than another glorification of the beauty in poverty, Southern Street illustrates a disappearing cultural heritage in Britain due to housing schemes such as the now abandoned Pathfinder Scheme. This was established in 2002 in order to regenerate housing in nine key areas across Britain, through refurbishment, clearance and replacement.
Thus the book addresses the immense urban and social changes that have and are still taking place in post-industrial Britain. The houses can be conceived as beautiful and as the articulation of personality in repetitive architecture. Yet in doing this they ultimately become a metaphor for the nostalgia created by the societal transformation that occurred during the privatisation of British industry during the seventies and eighties.
By repeating a similar image over the course of forty pages, Southern Street is addressing the consequences of poor planning and the unforeseen consequences of housing regeneration schemes.