ONCA Intern Sophie Wolfson interviews Zoe Manders, currently exhibiting at the ONCA Gallery…
Circus Street Market is being demolished and replaced with a brand new Arts centre which will serve the community and give organisations like South East Dance a state of the art home. This transformation is bittersweet for the Brighton community because the architecturally unique Circus Street Market has been an integral part of so many local people’s lives, especially the traders who worked there before it became derelict. Before this historic space disappears, Zoe Manders and straybird artists Becky Edmunds and Lucy Cash, have documented the building and its previous residents in an exhibition of film and photography which is running at the ONCA Gallery from 13 –28 November. Zoe spoke to us about her creative practice and the journey which led to this exhibition.
ZM: I’m a self-taught photographer so sometimes I feel like a bit of a fraud when I talk to other photographers because I don’t know all the terminology. “Intuitive” is the word I tend to use because I don’t think about photography in a scientific way. I know what I want and when I see it, I know how to capture it.
O: What led you as a photographer to collaborate with straybird and South East Dance?
ZM: I started out studying dance and taking photographs on the side. When a teacher asked me to photograph a performance it seemed like the perfect opportunity to merge my interests and I’ve been collaborating with dance groups ever since!
O: Is this your first public exhibition?
ZM: I’ve been working professionally as a photographer for many years now but this exhibition is my first ever self-directed photography project. It’s been a really exciting but also exposing experience. It’s intimidating to show your work to strangers but the response has been so positive and it’s really inspired me to produce more independent artwork.
O: How does it compare, photographing a static space like Circus Street Market as opposed to dynamic moving figures?
ZM: I perceive a lot of character in inanimate objects. They can tell you a lot about how they’ve been used and especially with a derelict space like this one, there are traces of its history. I see these photographs as portraits of a space. I’m not really documenting the architecture of the Market but rather, looking at it in a more intimate, detailed way.
O: Why did you choose ONCA as the venue for your exhibition?
ZM: Initially I think it was the proximity to Circus Street which seemed fitting. We also loved it’s central location and the space itself is so light thanks to that glorious window. It’s also massive compared to most other independent galleries. That’s great for an exhibition like this one, which has so many different elements to it. ONCA is one of very few places which is able to facilitate both photographs and film without feeling overcrowded.
I have been genuinely delighted with ONCA’s staff and volunteers. I love the sustainable ethos of the organisation as these are values I share. ONCA has been incredibly helpful and supportive of this project. I will definitely be back!
Exhibition Dates 13th-28th November
Sat & Sun 11-6pm
Commissioned by South East Dance. Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Based on an original concept by Lauren Proto and Zoe Manders.