Spying on a Memory

Face of the Market


My 2013 book REGULAR CUSTOMER (now out of print) contains nearly 300 photographs from Seattle’s downtown farmer’s market taken over 50 years — from 1963 to 2013.  The metaphor for the book was a stroll through the market looking both at how it is today and how it looked before.  Of course there were people in these photographs — what fun would the market be without people?  However, the emphasis was on the place and the people — customers, tourists, vendors, (me) — in the environment.  This is a revisiting of my negatives from the market that emphasize the faces of the people I saw there — a lot of them over many years.  Some I knew by name and regarded as friends, others only by sight, a few that I only saw once.

I naively expected the market never to change — but not in the physical sense.  There were two major renovation projects.  The first saved it from destruction in the early 70s and a second brought the infrastructure and earthquake resistance up to contemporary standards.  Both of these left the market looking unchanged but, as one of the vendors told me, “The plumbing works.”  A third major construction project “Market Up” added a snazzy, tourist friendly façade to the slope west of the market that was opened up by demolition of the viaduct.

But I somehow thought that the, well, personality of the market would remain even if the old faces were gone.  Alas, it has not.  Skyrocketing rents have driven out a great many of the marginal, funky shops on the lower levels and even some of the landmark businesses.  The latest to fall is the newsstand, First and Pike News (AKA “Read All About It”).  The tidal wave of tourists from the cruise ships that dock on the waterfront just north of the market is driving it to be more like Faneuil Hall in Boston — a tourist destination that kind of looks like a market.  So think of these portraits as a requiem for its past — spying on my memories. 

click here for a preview of this portfolio

Everybody in the Seattle area knows the name of the market.  You may notice that I have not used anywhere.  The name is a trademark and I could not use it without paying a hefty fee for a two year license, obtaining liability insurance to indemnify the trademark holder in case of disputes about my doing so, and destroying all unsold copies of the book when the license expired.  Even though using the name as a “name of place” is clearly under the “fair use” clause of copyright law I failed to get them to relent for my 2013 book so I didn’t even try this time.

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All images &text (c) 2020, Ron Hammond