Jessie Martin


Spaces of Becoming

The public square functions as a stage. The intentionality of the emptiness it concentrates produces specific kinds of social practices. It is a space where the people that form the public gather to display and enact practices of mourning, protest, leisure and allegiance. Through its intertwined physical and social structure it is a stage for quotidian activity, while its representation puts it on display as a characterisation of unified group identity. 

The city square has a long-established spatial identity that embodies notions of publicity. Pseudo public space accounts for a significant proportion of Londonís public realm, but these are not public spaces: they are private land which the public has been granted access to by the landowner. Belonging in these spaces is conditional and not a legal right. 

Over seven months I inhabited, researched and photographed four public London squares managed and owned by private corporations: Exchange Square, Bishops Square, Regents Place and Montgomery Square. I visited these squares at different times of day and on different days of the week in an effort to understand how spatial identities are embodied by human actions when they meet the shifting dynamics of private ownership. The relationship between architecture and body in pseudo public space is conditional and changeable; resulting identities signal a shift in urban belonging as they correspond to divergent sets of often unknowable socio-legal conditions. These spaces resist fixed identities, and as such their identity is an act of public improvisation; they are continually reperformed by their passing inhabitants, always in the process of becoming something new. 

Jessie Martin (b. 1990, England) is a photographer based in London. She is interested in space and place, how people respond to their environments, and the ways this can be researched, explored and recorded through a photographic creative practice. Her work is street based, and is currently focused on pseudo public spaces in London. She recently completed an MA in Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London