Capturing local characters has been a Peterborough photographer’s passion and the City Market has always been a rich hunting ground for some great photo opportunities.
Here at ESP we’ve long appreciated the pictures local paramedic and street photographer Chris Porz has snapped in his candid style.
Along the way he’s also charted the changing face of the city’s landscape as well as the faces within it. As the debate continues on where the Peterborough City Market should be located and as the adjacent car park has disappeared from the city scene, Chris has shared with us another exclusive selection of pictures spanning from the late seventies through to the demolition of the car park during lockdown.
“The market is a perfect place for my street photography as it was full of life and great atmosphere with colourful characters and stalls,” Chris told ESP.
“Handy when bad weather too. I have got to know many of the stall holders and become good friends so that makes taking photographs much easier but I also like to capture candid images too.
“It was why I have plenty of shots of Ian the Cobbler who’s now moved to Rivergate and of Param Singh and his international food stall and his father before him.
“It’s a great place for budding photographers and in fact I know local students of photography visit the market for that reason.”
Depending on your age you’ll have different memories of the market from buying your cheap fruit and veg, or picking up your first pair of jeans through to enjoying some of the more recent street food stalls.
Taking his pictures over the decades has given Chris a unique insight into how things have changed.
“I think the demise of the market came when Tesco arrived. Like many families we parked up in the multi storey got all our fruit and veg on the market and then went into Tescos for all the other stuff.
“Then people realised it was convenient to get it all under one roof in the warm and dry and so the market suffered badly.”
As a rich source of photographic inspiration and representation of local life, Chris says it’s a part of Peterborough that’s become special to him.
“The market is close to my heart as it was the life and soul of the town centre and it is a great shame for the stall holders and the public to see it now, compared to its heyday, which my photographs depict. I am afraid the car park demolition will hasten the decline.”
When he’s out an about Chris is always keen to capture the changing look of the city as much as the characters wandering through it and what started as a hobby has created a rich source of social history and a touch of nostalgia for us all.
“You will very rarely see any of my images with just buildings as I have to include people to bring those buildings alive and give them a sense of scale,” says Chris.
“It is another big regret when back in the day I was more interested in the punks sporting their multi coloured mowhawks than the backdrops behind them.
“I was a bit shyer then and often used a telephoto lens and now I just use one wide angle lens to place people in their social context interacting with their environment.
“People love the nostalgia of looking at the old shops as you soon forget what was there and the photographs are great in jogging the memory.
“All I can do now is to make up for my regrets and lost time and that’s why it was important for me to capture the demolition and the folk next door.”
The market’s future location is uncertain at the moment but moving it inside the former Beales department store building on Westgate is being considered, so what would Chris like to see happen to this important part of Peterborough life?
“It would be great to return it to Cathedral Square, but it could get a bit wet with the fountains, or have stalls along Long Causeway but that may be impractical, so somewhere like Beales as suggested by Toby Wood and the Civic Society could be a great place that would revitalise a crucial asset to our city.
“Ironic as Peterborough’s first supermarket was the Co-op in Westgate House and now the market superseded by a supermarket could now replace one.”
You can view many more of Chris’ Peterborough City Market images on our Facebook page (@espmagazine)so take a look and see which era you remember best.
View more of his great street photography on www.chrisporsz.com
All photos: Chris Porsz www.chrisporsz.com