Jessie Martin


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. The city square has a long-established spatial identity that embodies notions of publicity. Pseudo-public space accounts for a significant proportion of London's 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. 

I researched four public London squares managed and owned by private corporations, visiting 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 inhabitants, always in the process of becoming something new.  


Jessie Martin (b.1990, England) is an urban photographer based in London. She is interested in space and place, the relationship between built environments and performed public identities, and the ways these can be researched and explored through a street based photographic practice. Her work often focuses on public spaces, and looks to critically examine and reimagine the social layers that build up urban landscapes and inform inhabitation. She received her BA in Photographic Arts at the University of Westminster and in 2017 completed an MA in Photography and Urban Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

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