Twenty years ago, Nashville-based photographer Mark Boughton made his first visit to Philadelphia’s Italian Market, which is the largest and oldest outdoor market in the country. Mark’s hope for this project was to meet and capture the faces and spirit of the local businesses using infrared black and white film. This year, Mark revisited the project and returned to the streets of the market to showcase who and what he sees now versus then.
While the faces have changed, the traditions are still alive and thriving under the tattered and torn awnings. The same pallet tables and scales still exist as they did so many years ago with just new hands doing the work.
When he first explored this project, Mark wanted to create beautiful black and white images that could stand the passage of time for his portfolio. Mark shares that while the project fulfilled his original goal, he felt it was incomplete, hence his return.
When approaching this project, Mark made a promise to himself to be open to whatever obstacles might come his way. He tells us how his biggest challenge is often the anxiety and potential rejection when wanting to connect with strangers for his projects. It’s not easy to get someone to open up about their life, but Mark knew he had to strike up a meaningful conversation if he wanted to capture images that allow the subject’s personality to shine through. Fortunately, many people were friendly and eager to chat when he revisited the marketplace.
Honestly, the one thing that truly surprised me was how receptive everyone was. I mean, I really don’t remember it being this easy the first time around, twenty years earlier.
Mark tells us how he had the chance to ‘meat’ and shoot Harry Crimi Jr., from the famous Cappuccio’s Meats, which has been owned by his family since 1920. With a lifetime of memories at 91-years-old, Harry Crimi Sr., who Mark met and photographed twenty years back, made the decision to pass down the shop to his son Harry Jr., who spent much of his childhood helping his father at work. Decades of tradition is what Mark wanted to convey through this project, and this example shows how he was able to accomplish that.
After completing the assignment, per usual, Mark shared the images via his website and his social media platforms including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The reactions have been nothing short of terrific, as several art directors and designers have gone out of their way to compliment him on the finished creation.
I was having dinner with a photographer friend from California who I highly admire one night in Nashville, and out of the blue amidst our conversation he says to me, “Those images from Philly! Wow! That treatment just blew me away.” That made me feel like I had conveyed what I was trying to say.
Since the Italian Market is owned and passed down amongst generations of families, it gives Mark the opportunity to continue adding to this project, and he feels there are definitely more stories to be told. During his first visit, he took photos of two brothers who had worked in the market since the young age of twelve. Harry Crimi informed Mark that the brothers have since passed, but their sister is still around. Given a chance, Mark would love to meet her and share the photos and story of meeting her siblings twenty years ago. Being able to include other family members in this ongoing project would be icing on the cake for Mark as he continues to document the people behind Philadelphia’s Italian Market.
See more of Mark at markboughtonphotography.com!