Capturing The Poetics Of Construction For All New Aviva Studios

Exhibition of renowned photographer Hélène Binet documents Manchester’s landmark new arts venue from the ground up
Evie Whitaker
May 1, 2024

All new Aviva Studios - the dynamic hub for arts, music, and culture nestled in the heart of Manchester - sets the stage for a poetic project by renowned Swiss/French architectural photographer, Hélène Binet.

Over four years and eight immersive visits to the construction site, Binet used her distinctive film style to document the venue's evolution from inception. The culmination of her work is a captivating photographic essay soon to be unveiled in exhibition with Factory International.

Named ‘The Poetics of Construction’, this photo essay conveys the journey from industrial materials into purposeful design and functionality which now stands as a testament to Manchester's vibrant creative community, one that Hélène herself admires.

Talking of her experience in the city and working on the project, Binet caught up with Mag North ahead of the exhibition: “Manchester feels like a very proud city with such a strong relationship with industry, where the making and the function is so connected. There’s a sense of decoration but it’s all about function, and then there’s the water presence running through the city, coming together to give a unique sense of identity - it’s proud, it’s happy.

“At Aviva Studios, I was there at the beginning of what is to be. The core of the building, from the elevator and staircase to the incredible steel parts and the construction of all these things.

“Construction sites are always very seductive because there are so many amazing things to look at. You have to be careful of this and be specific; in this case it was to focus on showing the small things. From the way the ribbon held the steel rods, to the huge steel structure holding the whole building up - every little thing needs to be pieced together to create something bigger. When you play with photography you can do the same and mirror this to show how clever, and sometimes beautiful, the process is - that’s when it becomes poetic."

Manchester Aviva Studios construction images
The Poetics Of Construction Exhibition Photos

Hélène creates large-format photography and works exclusively with film, previously the default medium which she has purposefully continued to use: “I shoot on film because that’s how I started and when things changed, I decided not to change my technique because of the strong link to how I think and shoot as an artist.  What was once the norm is much more complicated and more expensive, but I’m very proud of my decision to carry on with this beautiful technique.

“When working with film, it takes time to fully understand a project, and often you only capture the true essence of it towards the end, when you’ve finished. My process is like a performance – it exists in the moment. ”

The exhibition will run from 7 May - 9 June 2024 and on 11 May at 3pm Hélène Binet will be in conversation in the Social, discussing her project on the Aviva Studios build.