Interview: Photographer Molly Stevenson on her photo series British markets
We stumbled across photographer Molly Stevenson’s photos of markets throughout Britain at this year’s Manchester School of Art Degree Show. The images are beautiful, perfectly composed and in muted pastel tones, offering a fresh perspective to the market scenes no doubt super familiar to many Brits. TSOTA’s Ella Milburn spoke to Molly about her work.
Could you tell us a little bit about where you got the inspiration for this series?
The series was a culmination of my interest for space and interaction. I’ve always enjoyed working with people – I’m the kind of person who’d chat to someone at the bus stop if it made my day a bit happier, so this was the perfect project for me. I took inspiration from photographers like Martin Parr and Alec Soth, as well as my all time love for pick and mix, my childhood, Eastenders, and my weakness for a cheeky chappy also contributed… This project also allowed me to combine my love for documentary and portrait photography.
Do you shoot digital or analogue?
I shot all of my work on digital, mainly so I could edit and respond instantly. Some places I was visiting I could only go once, so I had to make sure I got what I needed. I love the process of analogue but practicalities took over. I tend to shoot a lot of pictures, which I simply can’t afford with film.
One thing that interested me about the photos was how they hone in on the kitschness of British culture, which I have rarely appreciated before – it forced me to reconsider sights that were familiar and reconfigure them in a new kind of aesthetic. I felt that it might be similar to how people who come to Britain for the first time see our culture. So I was wondering how you became interested in this kind of look. Did you have any similar thoughts?
British culture is an incredible thing and something I am proud of, and I feel that the market is a place for communities to thrive and grow. A kind of microcosm of Britain. The markets had all kinds of produce on offer: puddings from Bury, material from Egypt, chorizo from Spain, spices from India, sweets from America… And yet I found that all together it formed a kind of representation of the idea of Great Britain.
How did you approach the photo taking? Did you interact with people there or did you prefer to stay inconspicuous?
At first I felt very awkward and shy. I think that maybe having a camera around my neck shifted people’s perception of me and made people question my intentions. I didn’t want the people there to feel uncomfortable, so I found that by talking to stall holders and explaining what I was doing made them a lot more relaxed and open. Once I had done this I was far more comfortable and got the great portrait shots for the series. The first day I visited a market I didn’t even take my camera out of my bag; I allowed myself to get lost in the stalls and not focus on the work I was going to make, but the place I was in.
See more of Molly’s work here.