WIKIPEDIA will tell you that Broadway Market is “an east London street running from London Fields to the Regent’s Canal in the London Borough of Hackney.” But, to the trendsetters working a stone’s throw away in Shoreditch, Broadway Market is a lot more than that. According to fashion and music photographer Wanda Martin, the café we meet in is, “in the middle of the hipster area, so they’re bound to have oat milk”. Being twice the age of the average clientele and without a beard, I feel out of my comfort zone. Wanda on the other hand, with her bright red lipstick, arched eyebrows and dark shoulder length hair, looks as comfortable as a lioness surveying her domain. She greets me with a radiant smile that stays in place for nearly the entire length of our hour-long interview; filled with infectious chatter, poignant stories and bursts of laughter over copious cups of flat white coffee. Served with oat milk…
Tell me about your background. You’re from Hungary and your dad was a photographer…
That’s right. My dad lives in the countryside of Hungary and he was the one that first taught me. He’s still doing photography. Growing up, I was interested in art history because we have some film directors in the family and theatre directors and a sculptor, so I grew up with art from day one. My dad didn’t want me to be a photographer because I always got good grades at school. He wanted me to do something more financially stable and normal!
We’ve all heard that!
Exactly. Then art happened and I started painting first and my images are inspired by paintings. Even in my fashion work I’m inspired by paintings, especially from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Was it your dad that gave you your first camera back then?
Yes. The first pictures I took were of things like raindrops on flowers, that sort of thing. My Mum and I went travelling a lot, so the camera would come with me. Then I started taking pictures of myself, self-portraits, when I was around 16. I’m from this little town in southeast Hungary, near the Romanian border, and I started photographing my girlfriends, because they all wanted pretty pictures of themselves and there was already a fashion element to it, even back then.
Did you find fashion photography quite a natural thing to move into?
Yes, even though my dad started out doing photo journalism, later he started doing advertising and fashion and was doing really well in Hungary. When I went to university, I moved to Budapest and studied fine art and conceptual photography. I was 18 and my first flat mate there was a fashion designer – that’s how I first got involved: “Oh, you have a nice camera, would you like to take some pictures of my collection?” And eventually, I just got more and more commissions from Hungarian magazines, which gave me opportunity to work with emerging fashion designers in Hungary.
What brought you to London?
It was in year three at university and I had this chance to apply for the Erasmus Mundus Masters Degree, a European scholarship, and my dream was to live in London, even though I had never been here before that.
Why London and not another west European city, like Paris or Milan?
First of all, it was the literature that I liked, the Brontë sisters and Jane Austen – the romantic writers. Then, later, I got involved with the rock and roll music scene and punk culture was centred on London. So, as soon as I finished university in Hungary in 2014 I started on the Masters Fashion Photography course in London. Then I graduated and I’ve been freelancing ever since.
You have built up an impressive list of clients and brands quickly; you must be very busy?
I’m working constantly, even when I’m not everything inspires me. Whether I’m walking in the street, or when I go out. I shoot on 35mm when I go to gigs and always have this 35mm film camera with me and just take pictures. All my other work is on digital cameras, but some personal projects I shoot on film.
Film is having a renaissance with some professionals, as well as students, who love seeing the printed image appear in the tray…
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