Portrait and lifestyle photographer Ben Mostyn recently stepped out of his comfort zone to commemorate a nostalgic piece of Britain’s past: the country fair. With a plethora of subjects surrounding Ben at the Stithians Show, located in West England, he sought to capture the event’s quirky and free atmosphere, a place where people could temporarily remove themselves from the stresses of their everyday lives.
I didn’t have any preconceptions about the fair, itself, but I knew it was steeped in tradition and actually quite a rare thing to witness in today’s modern world.
Showing up with minimal equipment and only one idea in mind (to stick to a portrait style format), the Cornwall-based photographer arrived excited to capture the locals’ buffet of personalities. Fearing negative reactions from people whose faces have been invaded by a camera lens, Ben was pleasantly surprised by how friendly and thrilled his subjects were to participate in this project.
I noticed that, often, the most natural images came from not, actually, interacting with anyone, but instead observing them and chatting after, as a lot of people tend to act unnatural when being faced with a camera.
Ben elaborates about his process of methodically exploring different sections of the site, snapping photos here and there and then moving on to other photo-worthy areas.
There was a lot going on, so I didn’t want the pictures to feel like I was covering the event in a traditional way. The main challenge was picking out the interesting details from the chaos – Patience is key…
Favored amongst the rest of his picture-perfect opportunities that day, Ben tells us about the flawlessly preened cattle aligned in single formation, “looking bored out of their minds,” that he eagerly photographed. The accompanying farmers happily displayed playful banter for Ben to capture as well. Aside from the lighthearted fun that was had with the cattle owners, Ben started to realize and admire how incredibly dedicated farmers are to their craft, not to mention that they’re probably responsible for providing tons of people with food.
As no stranger to fulfilling clients’ needs by way of commercially serving images, Ben was delighted to hear that this series has his followers smiling, which he feels is an equally deserving and valuable reaction in comparison to his usual photographic specialties.
Producing this was really fun! It was good to see events like this still exist and heartening to observe and meet people that care so much about what they do.
The project has inspired Ben to shoot more long-term, reportage work. Photographically, he gravitates towards localized and unbothered subjects, as they lack pretense and tend to focus on the positives rather than the negatives in life. Moving forward, he’s excited about taking the insight he’s gained from this self-assigned shoot and applying it to more projects about unique people in interesting places.
This taught me to not try to make a subject bend to some kind of aesthetic or pre-conceived idea. Truth is stranger than fiction, as a wise man once said.
See more of Ben at benmostyn.com!