How to appreciate the sanctity of green spaces in a city with photographer Alice Martin

“My practice stems from exploring the emotions and relationships between people and places, and through forming my own connections and conveying them,” says the London-based photographer.

26 October 2021

Something about Alice Martin’s images feels incredibly warming. They’re immersive without being indulgent, and tender without being sappy. No better do we see this than in We’re so lucky to have this place, aren’t we?, her brand new series which focuses on the Alric Avenue Allotments in New Malden and its function as a warm and optimistic escape for the local community throughout the pandemic. “I can’t see myself doing anything else,” she tells It’s Nice That, fresh off her graduation from Kingston with a BA in photography. “At 14 I was given a Pentax P30 and was instantly glued to it,” she adds. “It really changed the way I saw the world and how much I was missing.” Often, experience is touted as the opposite to innocence, as if by gaining greater exposure to life one must lose their former innocent disposition to the world. But, for Alice, the handle of photography has seemingly done the opposite: given her a newfound innocence in which to see things through

“My favourite aspect of photography is capturing moments of meaning, intimacy – private and powerful moments, and places,” she tells us. “For me, photography is a way of slowing down, taking time to think and see the world and people differently to how they immediately appear.” One way in which Alice has kept up this momentum is by switching up the medium. Learning to shoot with an analogue camera has allowed her to refine her practice – going from digital, to 36 images per roll of film, to ten per roll. “The excitement of taking an image with the restraint of knowing it must be good enough to use up a frame is something that keeps me continuously fascinated by what I can do with a camera,” she explains. “I’m guided by intuition, so I’m often able to provide a more intimate insight into my encounters and observations.”

GalleryAlice Martin: We’re so lucky to have this place, aren’t we? (Copyright © Alice Martin, 2021)

Such intimate insight is what fuels We’re so lucky…, where every image is bathed in warm tones, “all alluding to the allotment being this paradise full of optimism.” These connotations don’t veer into fantasy, however. Alice is clear in still reflecting the truth of the community she’s photographing. It’s something that has always been important to her, as she refrains from imposing a narrative other than what the community provides her. “I allow stories to develop organically within my projects,” she tells us. “That allows me to form genuine reflections of my lived experiences along with the lives of others.” Alice entered the project with the idea of showing how a space can bring together and nurture a diverse community, but instead found how the allotment “was this beacon of hope throughout the pandemic, and thus sought out to reflect that too.” By engaging with these communities with a much looser outline than she had done years prior with her photography practice, Alice finds her skillset and mastery of the medium refining and maturing.

“Allotments are these huge and overlooked areas, hidden in plain sight within the hearts of towns and communities,” Alice explains. “The demand for allotments has been rising over recent years and fuelled by the pandemic, the wait for a plot in London now sits between four to five years.” As Alice found herself visiting her local allotment frequently during lockdown, she was “captivated” by the serenity. “At this point, the project began to take a turn and I noticed my growing affinity with the allotment was unanimously felt by the community there,” Alice says. “So, this is when conceptually and visually, I began focusing on the way the allotment was this sacred and beautiful space offering some semblance of normality with its connection to nature and provision of a community during a year of enforced social isolation and loneliness.” Her series, therefore, brought focus to the space, highlighting details that “reflected the romanticised view” we often have of allotments, as well as the characters which inhabit them.

“What I hope viewers take from the series is an understanding of how vital green spaces and communities are, particularly the overlooked allotment,” Alice says in conclusion. “As well as how the strong connections within this unseen area provided a haven for us all and a space we are lucky to have.” Now, Alice is working on her next project, which has so far “been a lot of emailing and researching,” as one so often must do. “Along with that,” she says, “it’s just a case of keeping up with any commissions that come through and ensuring I keep myself motivated to keep making more work.”

GalleryAlice Martin: We’re so lucky to have this place, aren’t we? (Copyright © Alice Martin, 2021)

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Alice Martin: We’re so lucky to have this place, aren’t we? (Copyright © Alice Martin, 2021)

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About the Author

Joey Levenson

Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.

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