Snapped up:

Pho­tog­ra­pher Ben El­wes cap­tured a van­ish­ing world on cam­era al­most by ac­ci­dent, writes Pa­trick Prekopp

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - WORDS: Pa­trick Prekopp Š PHO­TOS: Ben El­wes

The pho­to­graphic record of Ayl­sham Mar­ket

They lean on metal shed doors or peer over a low wall, or sim­ply hud­dle to­gether for a quiet mar­dle – flat caps, over­alls, big boots and braces, whiskery faces – prob­a­bly dis­cussing the mer­its of that box of rusty tools.

All around them lie un­wanted house­hold items, bric-a-brac, scrap. They gaze sto­ically as some­one rolls a cast iron cart­wheel be­tween the rows of stacked tim­ber posts and win­dow frames, old bikes and as­sorted junk.

It looks like a bat­tle zone but this is the Keys Mon­day mar­ket at Ayl­sham which started in the early 1950s as a small live­stock mar­ket sell­ing mainly poul­try. In the in­ter­ven­ing years, Keys has de­vel­oped into a ma­jor auc­tion com­pany, es­tab­lish­ing fine art sales, in­clud­ing pic­tures, books and col­lecta­bles.

The live­stock and out­door dead­stock mar­kets have long since been aban­doned, but a

new book of pho­to­graphs taken be­tween 1990 and 2010 cap­tures the rus­tic at­mos­phere of that bu­colic time.

Called Mon­day Mar­ket, the book was com­piled by Nor­folk-born pho­tog­ra­pher Ben El­wes, who spent many hours wan­der­ing round the sales yard on mar­ket day to see what he could find to pho­to­graph as well as to make the odd bid if there was some­thing of in­ter­est.

“Auc­tions of­ten in­volve quite a lot of wait­ing around to bid and usu­ally there are other peo­ple do­ing the same. It is there­fore a great place to ob­serve peo­ple and take pho­to­graphs, as there is al­ways move­ment and ac­tiv­ity,” says Ben. “It is also an event that re­curs through­out the year so it is al­ways there to come back to if you had been away – and I was of­ten away. It was this re­la­tion­ship be­tween con­ti­nu­ity and change that in­ter­ested me, par­tic­u­larly as re­flected through the peo­ple. And in do­ing so I in­ad­ver­tently caught the mar­ket as it was chang­ing.”

Mon­day Mar­ket was never con­ceived as a book – the pic­tures re­mained in a box un­til 2016. It was only after chat­ting with graphic de­signer Dan Wescott that the idea of putting a book to­gether came about.

In the in­tro­duc­tion, lo­cal res­i­dent and au­thor El­speth Barker writes: “The Mon­day Mar­ket main­tains its pride and in­de­pen­dence, not as an ad­junct to lifestyle, but as a cel­e­bra­tion of life it­self.”

A sig­nif­i­cant theme that un­der­lies Ben’s work is events that iden­tify and de­note change.

“In a world of flux im­por­tant mo­ments pass quickly and are soon su­per­seded by oth­ers. As a pho­tog­ra­pher this is what is ex­cit­ing and re­ward­ing when pho­to­graphs suc­ceed.

“In the mar­ket, I would try to be dis­creet in or­der to get bet­ter pho­tos and hoped to melt into the crowd. But at the out­door sale, every time I raised my cam­era my cover would be blown when the porter Mr Bur­ton called out loudly: ‘Look up! Here’s the VAT man.’ Ev­ery­body would turn my way.”

Although mainly black and white, the 150-plus pic­tures also mark a sig­nif­i­cant change in the pho­tog­ra­pher’s art.

“When I started, I worked on ana­logue film and fin­ished work­ing dig­i­tally.”

Ben El­wes, aged 52, was born in Burgh-next-Ayl­sham, and has a masters de­gree in fine art photography. He di­vides his time be­tween Europe and Méx­ico and his work has been ex­hib­ited at the Na­tional Por­trait Gallery and The Pho­tog­ra­phers’ Gallery in London, and in Swe­den, France and Mex­ico.

He is com­plet­ing a fur­ther book this sum­mer from a pho­to­graphic road trip made at the end of the US elec­tion in Novem­ber 2016, en­ti­tled: God Bless Amer­ica.

“I in­ad­ver­tently caught the mar­ket as it was chang­ing”

benel­we­sphoto.com/books/mon­day­mar­ket/

Mon­day Mar­ket, by Ben El­wes, will be launched in the Keys Sale Day Of­fice on Thurs­day, July 19 with an ex­hi­bi­tion of work from the book on dis­play from July 20, un­til Septem­ber 20. A sec­ond launch is planned for Thurs­day, July 26 at The Pho­tog­ra­phers’ Gallery book­shop in London, a pop­u­lar venue on the photo cir­cuit.

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