Mark Wincott interviews Leytonstone photographer Jake Green

Hi Jake, thank you for doing this, how are you? 
I’m really well thanks, Mark. Hope you are too. Thank you for your continued support.

How has lockdown and tier confusion impacted you and your art?
Since March 2020 there has been a massive reduction in commercial photography work, which has been a struggle for my business and many others in the same position. What this has done is given me the time to focus entirely on my own projects – planning new work and celebrating existing projects and collaborations.

Can you tell us a little about how you became a photographer?
I gradually became a photographer over several years, starting out with a cheap, second hand camera from a charity shop. I was intrigued by the photographic process. Over the years I’ve consistently developed my understanding of different areas of creative production, image making and art direction.

What inspires you?
I’m inspired by projects that either feel misrepresented or underrepresented. Most of my ideas and creative inspiration come from reading books or visiting art galleries – I try to put myself in a position where my mind can wander.

For the knowledgeable people out there what equipment do you use?
I use a range of cameras depending on the project. My main work horse camera is a Canon MK4 with optical viewfinder and a series of manual focus Zeiss lenses, 25mm, 50mm and 85mm.

Is there anyone out there who encouraged you to continue on this path? If so, who and how did they help you?
My parents always gave me the freedom to find my own way. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but creatively I’ve never had any restrictions. My main, more recent inspiration and encouragement has been my partner Kerrie; we discuss the projects I’m working on and how they will develop. She has always given me the confidence that all the research work and personal work will be worthwhile and mean something. Kerrie proofs all of the book editorials and oversees the final edits of the books and exhibitions.

I first heard of you due to your impressive photo book of pie and mash shops still open in London. How long did this take to collate and why….what made you come up with the idea?`
The Pie & Mash London project is such a hidden gem. It first started out as a short film in 2014. At the time I was working with Simon Poon Tip (Director & Executive Producer) and we had started making projects documenting little narratives in and about London. He suggested documenting the Pie & Mash shops, so we filmed each one with a London postcode. At the time I always had the idea that the project would work well as a book and become an interesting document. Every edition of the book evolves and changes in some way, adding shops and different editorial content.

You recently did Pie and Mash Live, featuring the Hak and Cooke family. How long did this take to put together and how did it all come about?
Every edition of the book is celebrated by a pie and mash lock in party at the Noted Eel and Pie House in Leytonstone. This wasn’t possible this year – so I took the opportunity to share the project in a different way. I’d recently done a different event of a similar nature to launch my book Kunywa Jasho Langu: Coffee Kenya – people really enjoyed the virtual launch. Pie & Mash LIVE worked as a way to connect people from all over London to people online in a global celebration of pie and mash. Connecting pie and mash fans with fans of photography and vice versa. In much the same way as the pie and mash lock in connected people from different communities locally.

What were Matt Johnson of The The and John Rogers like to talk to?
I’ve known John Rogers for a while, since he wrote for the first edition of Pie & Mash London – it is always enjoyable to have an excuse to chat with him. I’m a big fan of his work and YouTube channel. We’d recently done a post-lockdown Pie & Mash Q&A event at The Wanstead Tap in Leytonstone which sold out within a day, so I felt that it was a good opportunity for anyone who had missed out on that event to see what he had to say on the subject.

Matt Johnson was very different – we’d never spoken before – I’m aware of how much of a legend he is. Once he got started reminiscing about pie and mash, everything just fell into place. Originally, I had planned to do an interview with a regular customer of Noted Eel & Pie House to get their view and it just so happened to turn out to be Matt Johnson. I’m reading his dad’s book Tales from the Two Puddings now. It is great to engage in the local history and community – especially with personal accounts and relationships. Sharing these stories is inspiring and helps me to promote the subjects of projects that are important to me.

You created a photo story of the coffee trade in South America and Africa; what did you learn, how has this experience affected your life?
The series you mention is called Drink My Sweat – it’s an observation of specialty coffee production which embodies ethically traded and sustainable coffee, meaning that the coffee is of a higher grade and sells for a higher price as a result. I saw first-hand the inequalities of life from our western coffee consumption to the manual labour required to produce coffee. When I returned from Colombia, my first trip in the series, I couldn’t consume coffee in the same way. The reality of where it came from weighed heavily on me. I wasn’t sure how best to communicate what I had seen, but I knew I had some amazing images that could draw attention to the subject. The trip has made me appreciate the coffee I drink more and to pay tribute to the different people and organisations that dedicate their lives to the process.

Who would you tell the readers to look out for, as in short movie maker and a photographer? Also, why would you recommend them?
Henry Jay Kamara is an exceptional young photographer who I’m observing. I’ll be interested to see what he is producing in 5-10 years’ time. JaQuel Knight is a choreographer and creative director that I have worked with for a number of years, he has immense vision and has started directing. The next step for him is to produce a full feature – rather than a short. I can’t wait to see that.

You are based in East London, what do you love about the area?
I’m not just based in East London, I was born and raised here. The area has a great feel to it. Growing up here has meant being surrounded by so many different cultures. So much so that in fact that diversity becomes a culture that we call our own, unique to our area of London and not seen in the same way anywhere in the world. You mostly notice the eclectic mix of people when you move away or visit other areas.

What are you working on next?
I’m currently putting the finishing touches to a photography exhibition in Walthamstow of Kunywa Jasho Langu: Coffee Kenya at the Frank Ison Space from 5 Jan to 7 Feb 2021. It’s a continuation of the book launch and a progression from the virtual event to a physical exhibition that can be viewed from the street in a socially distanced way. It has been designed to be very accessible and includes the option to scan a QR code to listen to an audio recording and description of the work. The prints are beautiful and the show is supported by an exhibition booklet that gets posted out for free.

The next chapter in the coffee series is Central America – which focusses on El Salvador and Honduras. Other than that, I’d like to expand the Pie & Mash book to include every pie shop in England. I’ve got a few other projects I’m waiting for the right moment to explore and develop – but all in good time.

TO FIND OUT MORE
www.jake.green   and   www.leytonoflondon.com