© Mark Massey // Funfair attendant, Leigh Regatta


Mark Massey

The Story Behind the Portrait

This portrait is of a funfair attendant having a quiet moment of contemplation during a lull in trade, at the annual regatta in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. The town sits on the Thames estuary and upholds traditional maritime community events such as this, reflecting its history as a fishing village. The attendant is standing on one of the wharves and you can see the estuary at high tide behind him.

It’s actually a candid shot so it opens up the question as to whether it strictly falls into the definition of ‘portrait’ – does the subject need to be a conscious participant in the process? I once heard a ‘portrait’ defined as a picture of someone from which you learn or feel something about the subject. So if it fits this definition then I guess it’s a portrait. My introduction to photography was through street photography, and although I’m now more interested in documentary, I think that approach shows through in this image. By interfering in the moment I could have spoiled it – although actually if I had posed him then I’d probably have chosen something very similar to this.

The image is from my ongoing project Essex Chronicles, a personal exploration of life along the coast of estuary Essex. I’m documenting its diverse mix of industry, habitation and leisure, showing how these three things combine and interact with the natural environment to give the coastline its identity. Although a lot of the images are social landscapes, I think it’s important to incorporate people into a project like this, and I’m including both candid and posed portraits within it. I have a long list of people to photograph in the future. I started the project in earnest in early 2016; this was quite an early shot in the series, before the idea behind it really took shape.


Born in 1970 in Essex, Mark trained as a graphic designer and works in London as an art editor / magazine designer. This background influences his photographic style and visual language. Mark likes working on local projects and has exhibited locally.

He lives in Southend-on-Sea with his wife and two young daughters.