Liverpool is a city steeped in history and culture. Now listed as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites, there are 6 areas of the city under strict protection, which include most of its major historical landmarks.
Made world famous by The Beatles, the European success of it’s football clubs and the historic port, the area is packed with incredible architecture, both new and old, each building with a story to tell. Before I set off, I carefully planned my route around the city.
I’ve visited a few times before, but I didn’t know my way around well enough to just wander, as I wanted to make sure I could take in all the sights and have to time to photograph all the major landmarks. I started out by visiting a few areas away from the city centre. My first stop was Anfield, the home of Liverpool Football Club.
Originally the home of Everton FC, Anfield became home to Liverpool in 1892 at their formation and has been their home ever since. The stadium has been through various redevelopments over the years and the current US-based owners are considering expanding the current stadium.
Outside the ground stand statues of the clubs two most successful managers, Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly, who through the sixties, seventies and early eighties, led the club to numerous domestic and European championships, cementing their dominance as one of English football’s finest ever sides.
The stadium is surrounded by rows of terraced housing, so finding a good vantage point was difficult, but this view of the ground’s entrance and ‘The Kop’ stand captures the grandeur of a club like Liverpool.
I used a vertical shot to crop out unwanted distractions and to maximise the size of the structure. However, your best option is to go on a guided tour of the stadium, which will give you greater access to the best photo spots around the ground.
Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse
Consisting of over 27 million bricks and 30,000 panes of glass, the Stanley Dock Tobacco Warehouse remains the world’s largest brick warehouse. Built in 1901, the Grade II listed building was abandoned in the 1980’s due to a decline in the industry, but there are now plans to redevelop the site into a few hundred apartments.
Finding the Vantage Point
The warehouse is located a bit out of the way, just north of the city along the River Mersey, so you’d either need a car, or to give yourself plenty of time to walk. Access was restricted by metal fencing and the large expanse of water, and being such a large building, it took me a fair while to walk around the old warehouse to find a good shooting spot.
When I did, it only just fit into a single frame, but having laid derelict for years, there wasn’t much around to offer any sense of scale, no people, trees or cars.
St. George’s Hall
Considered the centre of the city, St. George’s Hall sits opposite the Lime Street railway station. Designated as a Grade I listed building by English Heritage, the Hall houses a number of concert halls and law courts. Completed in 1854, it has notable Greek and Roman architectural features.
You Can’t Miss It
This is one that you can’t miss. It’s so large that from the ground I was only able to include the front in a single image. The large pillars and horizontal lines make it an imposing building, made all the more grand when you consider the two passers by for scale! This would be a great subject matter to experiment with taking composite images and then stitching them together in post.
Liverpool Central Library
Located on the city’s historic William Brown Street, the library was originally constructed in 1860 with the additions of the Picton Reading Room in 1879 and the Hornby Library in 1906. The building recently went under a huge period of redevelopment that took 5 years, designed to bring the old buildings up to date with modern technological resources for the public.
With the recent renovations, there were a multitude of photographic opportunities on offer here. The front entrance has been paved with literary quotes, but the inside of the building was where the greatest photographic opportunities were to be found.
My favourite room was the old Picton Reading Room, perfectly preserved in time, although being a library, you need to ensure you work very quietly! The newly built skylight on the top floor, constructed with sweeping wooden beams, invites you out to the viewing platform and offers amazing panoramic views of the city.
Pier Head: Port of Liverpool Building and Cunard Building
The Pier Head area of the city is another of those listed as a World Heritage site and upon visiting, it’s easy to understand why. Three grand constructions, known as the ‘Three Graces’ sit side by side along the waters edge, each having played a crucial part in the city’s maritime history.
Built in 1907, the Port of Liverpool Building acted as the headquarters of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, although it is now home to high end office and residential properties.
The Cunard Building was constructed in 1917 and is said to be influenced by the design of Italian palaces. Until the 1960’s, it was the home of the Cunard Line, operating trans-atlantic travel from Liverpool. It now homes a number of public and private businesses.
Using Available Light
I had to give myself time to compose this image, particularly to find a suitable angle to include both buildings without the interference of the trees planted all the way along the front. Pick the time that you photograph these buildings carefully, each of them are constructed with bright white stone, and the winter sun falling on their west facing walls highlighted their amazing architectural details
Pier Head: The Liver Building
Originally built in 1911, the Liver building was home to Royal Liver Assurance, who assisted those who had lost a wage-earning relative. Between it’s construction and 1961, it was the tallest building in the UK and houses the famous Liver Birds on it’s roof, one male, looking back across the city, the other female, looking out to sea.
It’s important to think carefully about the key features of each building, I shot the Liver building from the north facing side as I wanted to include both the inward and outward looking Liver Birds.
Albert Dock is home to the UK’s largest collection of Grade I listed buildings, and London aside, is the most visited multi-use attraction in the UK. Open in 1864, it was the first construction in Britain to be made from cast iron, brick and stone, protecting it from combustion, a common problem in warehouses.
Built as one of the only docks in which you could load cargo straight from the boat into the warehouse, the dock took shipments of brandy, sugar, cotton, tea, silk, tobacco and ivory.
Revisit in the Evening!
Getting this shot was actually a lot trickier than I’d imagined. Taking the shape of a large square, it was impossible to get all sides within one shot. I wanted to capture the red pillars which line each bank, as well as the calm water with reflections, but the light was very flat.
Having walked all of the way around, I chose this angle as it captured the boat in the foreground to add interest. However, I’d very much like to revisit this location towards the evening when the sun is lower in the sky and I’d recommend stopping by when it’s dark to get a long exposure shot of the lights that frame the dock.
Hope Street: Liverpool Cathedral
Situated at onew end Hope Street is Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, open by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978, it is the world’s fifth largest cathedral. Based on designs by Giles Gilbert Scott, it sits atop St. James Mount and is therefore visible from many areas of the city.
An intimidating and actually rather ugly building from the outside, I chose to get close up and capture the huge exterior facade at the buildings entrance. The interior offered an amazing array of photographic opportunities, although being quite dim it was a challenge to use the ambient light effectively, but a few choice spots were highlighted very nicely by lighting, including the view directly above the nave.
Hope Street: Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral
At the other end of Hope Street, which houses the Philharmonic Hall, home of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, is the city’s Catholic Cathedral. It's another modern building, but with very different styling.
It was completed in 1967 to a design by Sir Frederick Gibberd, however, Gibberd was later sued for £1.3 million on account of architectural flaws in the building that led to leaks and defects in tiled walls.
Unlike the Anglican Cathedral, the Metropolitan Cathedral appears to be a far more modern building and looks stunning from the bottom of Hope Street. The interior is well worth a look as well, with very clever use of colour lights that combine with the light passing through the stained glass windows in the roof making for a visually enticing structure. This combination of the two buildings is a great chance to get some contrasting interior shots from two very different religious sites.
St. Luke's Church
A modest Anglican parish church, originally built in 1832, St. Luke’s was a victim of the Liverpool Blitz in 1941 and now stands as a roofless shell, a monument to those who were lost during the war.
Take a Second Look
I’ve walked past the front of this church in the past without even realising that it had no roof, so I ensured that I went around to the back of the building, where it was easier to get a shot of the whole structure, including a view through the empty windows and absent roof! Finding the features that make the building unique is important.
Built in 1716, Bluecoat Chambers is considered the oldest building in Liverpool. Originally constructed as a charity school, the premises is now home to an arts centre, known as The Bluecoat.
Searching for Symmetry
Surrounding a beautiful courtyard, this elegant building was an amazing escape from the noise of the city, and it totally appeased my relentless desire to shoot symmetrical architecture images, despite the gentleman on the right!
Anthony Gormley’s "Another Place"
"Another Place" is a series of one hundred cast-iron life sized human figures placed in the sand by sculptural artist Anthony Gormley. The figures, a cast of Gormley’s naked body, is placed along a 3km stretch of the River Mersey shoreline and stretch nearly 1km out to sea. It took three weeks to place the figures, each of which is held by metre high foundation blocks. When the tide is in, the statues become completely submerged, being revealed when the tide goes out.
Using Exposure Creatively
I’d intended this to be the last stop on my visit, but I ran out of time in the day, however, this amazing shot by Fiona Mcallister will do far more than merely give you an impression of what the structures are like, but offering you an artistic perspective on how to shoot a cast iron human figure!
Explore With Your Camera
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip around Liverpool, it was great to just soak up the energy of the city and explore it’s amazing landmarks, both historical and contemporary. Going on a photo walk around a town or city is a great way to get to know a place, but similarly, it's a great way to get a fresh perspective on places you're familiar with.
A big thanks to the guys at the Open Eye Photography Gallery in Liverpool for their help and tips on locations!