Blooming Tales

New Photography Book Captures the Beauty a Flower Market Leaves Behind

A veteran in publishing, but a relative amateur in photography, Johanna Neurath is a proud East-Londoner, with a magpie’s eye for beautiful things. Like many an East-ender she loves frequenting Hackney’s iconic flower market, and for the last 10 years she’s been shooting what she sees there on a Sunday afternoon. The result is Columbia Road, a charming little anthology produced by independent local publisher, Hoxton Mini Press.

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Rather than catching the dazzling displays in full bloom or focussing on the revellers, Johanna instead documents the trove of wonders left behind, the discarded debris, the puddles and petals. She explains why: “For the treasure hunt – can I find the beauty in the rubbish…? There’s a fine line between beauty and ugliness, and sometimes I am not sure which I am photographing! I guess it’s subjective”.

We’re certainly under the impression that this book encapsulates the former rather than the latter, making for both aesthetically-pleasing images and a powerful diary of a London tradition that seems to belie the rapid pace of ‘development’ that envelopes the rest of the city. Columbia Road captures moments of real poignancy with characters as diverse and colourful as the flowers themselves.

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We took a stroll with Johanna to learn more:

The Plus: How long have you been visiting the Hackney Flower Market?
Johanna Neurath:
Years and years…! Ten years with a camera in hand.

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TP: What motivated you to start photographing what you saw there?
JN:
It’s easy – close to where I live… It’s also my Sunday ‘Walking Meditation…’ Everything get’s reduced to pattern and colour….

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TP: Do you think specialist markets such as this still have a place in the modern world of online shopping and failing high streets?
JN:
Yes I think they are more important than ever. We need MORE personality and individuality – not less!

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TP: Did you always have this in mind as a book or did you have to adapt the series to fit the format?
JN:
No even though I work in books, I didn’t have a book in mind for this. It’s my playtime – not work! No I didn’t adapt the series to fit a book – I have THOUSANDS and thousands of images of the market so it was just a question of getting the edit right.

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TP: Do you have a specific flower or plant that has any special significance for you?
JN:
I don’t have green fingers at all! My garden is an embarrassment of overgrown weeds… Photographically speaking I think my favourites are fallen cherry blossom when it’s so thick it almost makes a blanket.

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TP: Who do you think the book will appeal to?
JN:
Magpies like me…! People who like bright colour and pattern – and perhaps people who are a bit sentimental. There’s something a little sad and wistful about all the images of dead and decaying flowers…

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TP: Are you working on anything else at the minute?
JN:
Yes helping the book designers find the right design concepts for about 50 new titles at the publishers where I work!

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