Down and Out in Manchester

During the outbreak of COVID-19, many homeless people in Manchester are gathered at Piccadilly Gardens. Mark is one of them.

by Zhu Runzi

The idea for a series of images depicting the lives of an all-too-invisible population began in late 2019. The homeless are wandering the streets: in full view but seldom seen. These shots form part of a personal photographic journey depicting modern destitution. It’s a side of Manchester that it prefers not to acknowledge.

Christmas 2019: I realized the importance of documenting the livelihood of these individuals. In total contrast to the lives of many who were spending time around a dinner table with family and friends, the homeless were on their own, on the streets.

Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 global pandemic and subsequent unparalleled indoor confinement, I felt that the lives of the homeless should be magnified for the world to see. Before Covid19, their faces had been drowned out amongst the crowds of city-dwellers and shoppers. Surely now, with the crowds gone, they could not be ignored anymore.

We are living in an era of fast communication and visual information, conveyed on a global scale through a medium that avoids awkward truths and prefers pleasing aesthetic distractions. Homelessness has been and still is a problem in all societies around the world. Through my lens and this mini-series of images, I wanted to expose a human situation that is both local and global; human and troubling.

Photographer Zhu Runzi moved to the UK in 2018 from China and now lives in Manchester where he studies for a Masters in Architecture. Contact details at end.

Tastes as Good as it Looks. Don’t you just Love afternoons?



A dispute in Market St during the Christmas of 2019. The whole street is empty.



A silent tragedy. The sign reads “Homeless, Please Help”

Young and homeless after his mother died four month ago.












Instagram: zhu_runzi


Author: austinwilliams

Austin Williams is the director of the Future Cities Project and author of a number of books on the environment and on China. The latest are "China's Urban Revolution" (Bloomsbury) and "New Chinese Architecture: Twenty Women Building the Future" (Thames and Hudson).

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