In this highlight of the Atelier 33 exhibition, we interviewed Peter Balentine about his series Home Markets, which can be seen in the Griffin Main Gallery until March 26, 2021. This collection documents the many family owned markets that can be found around the city of Lynn, Massachusetts, where Peter is a pastor at an immigrant church. He has taken an interest in celebrating the culture that these many stores have brought to his city.
Which of these images was the impetus for this series? How did it inform how you completed the series?
Actually, the impetus for this series was the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher who catalogued water towers, barns and other architectural features in Eastern Europe for over 40 years. I took a MOMA class last spring, “Seeing Through Photography”, and their work was featured. During a drive in my new city of Lynn one day this fall, the markets begin popping out at me. La Familia, a grocery store on Summer and Burns was my first “home market” I photographed. I love the orange color of the awning combined with the purple trim, and the long steps that went up to the front door above the market. This market then drew me to look for others to photograph. I am up to 37 markets now in the home market typology in Lynn.
How has your photography changed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic? Has the Atelier been a motivator to persevere through these trying times?
The pandemic actually gave me some extra time at home to study photography, work on my craft and skills, and take several classes online. Atelier was an amazing supportive environment that helped me stay focused on this project, and also experiment with other class assignments as well. The every Thursday a.m. routine of showing work was very helpful to stay disciplined in making work regularly.
What drew you to want to represent the stories of immigrant families creating lives in your community?
I am a pastor of an immigrant church in Lynn and desire to know more about the lives of people coming from other countries, but now living in our city. Home markets get one right down to the grass roots of everyday life: markets are where you go to get what you need to live and raise a family. I wanted to better understand people. In a small way, I thought also that a catalog of these markets might contribute to the history of the city of Lynn.
What do you hope we as viewers take away from viewing your work?
I hope people will have fun viewing the variety of colors, shapes, and ethnic
backgrounds of these markets. I hope it will cause them to look for uniqueness and beauty in their own communities, especially as offered by people coming from other parts of the world.
Tell us what is next for you creatively.
I would like to work on portraits of people at my church and living in the surrounding neighborhoods of the church. This can be challenging due to the fact that we are a gateway city of immigrants. The first step is to just build relationships and get to know people. The camera will come out later and only if people are okay with it.