Seeking Magazine interviewed the photographer Jim Mortram to talk about Market Town, the project he has been working the last two years.
Seeking Magazine: I believe that ‘Market Town’ is a project in which you have invested a lot of time and dedication. What was it that pushed you to begin the project? What was it that you wanted to tell when you began?
Jim Mortram: I began the project out of a period of great solitude for myself. I was loaned a camera and had, I guess you could say, a moment of clarity. I was able connect and see things in a way that for a few years I was unable to do. I’d always been socially conscious and as soon as I had a camera in my hands I wanted to document and share other peoples stories, it was a very natural progression, not a choice or a plan, it was just what came from me, through me when I hold a camera.
SM: What is, and where is ‘Market Town’ located?
JM: Market Town is Dereham, Norfolk U.K.
SM: Have you been influenced by other photographers?
JM: Yes. Most notably Eugene Richards, W.Eugene Smith, Eli Reed, Brian Lanker photographers that had a acute bond and empathy with the stories that they shot and tried to share with a wider audience.
SM: I think you’ve documented your working process with the people you photographed through interviews. Tell us how what this process has been.
JM: In the beginning, I only had the streets to work from. It’s been a very organic evolution. People I would see, stop and talk with I began to form tighter bonds with, would visit them at home learning more and more about their lives as the trust between us grew naturally stronger and barriers were lowered. As time passed, people suggested people they knew that would like to get involved until it reached a point of self sustainment, I’d attained a network of inter connected people and I’m honoured to be a part of it.
SM: In some of the portraits one can appreciate a powerful connection, a very genuine understanding between you and the photographed subject. How was your relationship with these persons?
JM: I never judge people, in any way. Regardless of their life, situation I connect and did so way before photography on a human level so that was carried into my relationship with the people that I document. I’ve full disclosure with everyone I photograph, by this I mean they all know me as the guy with a camera!… so there is no shock when I visit with one.
Everyone understands I publish work where and when I can, principally to share their story and everyone is made a part of the journey of the story after the fact, if I can get my hands on a copy of a magazine or book that’s featured work the first person to know of it is the person within the shot. As my work has evolved from what felt, to me, like short form documentary to long form that sharing, bonding and shared happiness has grown stronger. More than anything, I don;t see myself, in any was as apart or other from people I shoot and I think that makes the biggest difference, it just happens that I always have a camera to hand and I love to listen to people and their stories and I care.
SM: After spending so much time with the subjects you’ve photographed, there comes a moment in which you know many details of their lives and they’ve told you the story behind them. What have you learned from all this?
JM: I’ve learned that people are strong, compassionate, trusting and resilient no matter what life has thrown at them. I’ve nothing but vast respect for everyone I’ve ever photographed. I’ve also learned how cruel, tough and unforgiving life and society can be and I think, my photographic work is a way of my saying to the world, I care even if the majority of people, don’t.
SM: This project has taken you more than two years. What has it meant to you to work on it?
JM: Other than my family life, which is the glue that holds me together this project has meant the world to me. It’s outgrown the label project I think, it’s more than that. It’s what I do, I live for it in a very genuine way and I think no matter where I was to go, whatever I was to photograph I’d address it and relate to it in the same way. People are people wherever you go in the world and I’ll take all I’ve learned with me. Market Town could only end were I or all the people I photograph leave but the ethos of the project will never leave me for the reasoning behind it is so simple, to reach out and connect with members of a local community and to attempt to share, however I can the resulting stories.
SM: In what way are you circulating this work? I believe you’ve done an exhibition and that you also sell numbered prints of some of your photographs. Tell us a little about this part of the process.
JM: Exhibiting was hard at first. Financially more than anything. If you self fund it’s a killer. As time’s past and my photography has become more well known I’m in a position now where I’m being asked to include work in shows and that a weight off as the gallery will pay for the costs. I did sell prints, solely for the purpose of raising the capitol to buy my own camera after years of borrowing equipment. I most likely will sell Ltd prints again in the future as the running costs of merely shooting could never be covered by my wages as a carer, not huge costs, just transport, film etc.
SM: Do you have in mind publishing a photobook of this work?
JM: Sure. If a publisher comes to me with an interesting offer, absolutely.
SM: What is the next project you wish to taken on?
JM: I’ll continue work on Market Town, my new blog ‘Small Town Inertia’ and focus on specific long term documentaries within that framework. Currently one of these documentaries is dealing with living with Epilepsy.
©Photographs by Jim Mortram.