“What is it about photographing markets that you like?” Charlie asked. We were both leaving the early morning fish market on a bit of a morning high that normally is brought on by coffee intake. But this morning there was no coffee – only fish. The last 40 minutes were spent walking around taking photos. It was a small space packed with colorful locals and two tourists with a permanent smile on our faces as our only way of communicating.
Why did I like photographing markets so much – that was a good question that I had never really thought about; I just knew they gave me a high.
I thought about the question for a while and decided that the joy for me was sort of getting a peak behind the veneer that we construct in the food industry in the US. All of this stuff happens in the US in order to get our fish to our table, but we only see the nicely packaged parts that people want us to see. We are protected. I suppose there is an element of getting let in on a secret when I go to the local markets around the world.
Another element is that it awakens my imagination and requires me to solve a puzzle. With no real way to communicate or ask questions, I am forced to be a detective. Why are the fish laying on the ground in little piles? What is the boy doing with the yellow piece of paper? Who is the man who is addressing the crowd? Can anyone enter their fish in the auction or is it restricted? How do people get paid? What are they writing on that piece of paper?
So many questions and no answers leave me the chance to solve the mystery and make up my own stories. It’s an exercise in creativity. Anyone can come and dump their bag of fish on the ground as long as they are in a neat pile. The young boy writes the name of the fish and the ‘seller’ on the piece of yellow paper and lets it drift down onto the pile. People walk around and look at the quality of all of the piles while socializing at the same time. The auctioneer starts at a pile and yells out a starting price and watches people bid with practically unnoticeable gestures, driving the prices up. A winner is determined and quickly the fish are scooped up and the auctioneer moves on while the crowd follows him from pile to pile. The winning bid pays for their fish over at a table in the corner. At least that’s how the story went in my brain.
I have absolutely no idea if it’s right or I’m even close, but it was exciting to make it up and try to fit all of the puzzle pieces together.
And that’s why I love going to markets, especially ones like this little fish market near the Soma Kerala Palace we were staying at. It was purely local, only about fish, and the veneer was off.
Do you love photographing markets? Why?