Southend photographer hopes Essex Girls project will 'challenge stereotype'

image copyrightMark Massey
image captionActress Pippa Moss outside the Cliffs Pavilion in Westcliff-on-Sea, where she once did work experience

A photographer who set out to capture "Essex Girls" said he hoped the works would challenge the stereotype and show the diversity of women in the county.

Southend-based Mark Massey, a designer who has largely taught himself photography, started the project earlier this year.

He said hoped to have the project completed by autumn next year.

Mr Massey said as a "white, middle aged man" it was essential each image was a collaboration with the subject.

image copyrightMark Massey
image captionPerformance poet Jo Overfield in a cafe on the Southend seafront

"I've got two daughters aged nine and 12," he said. "So I started wondering whether this stereotype is going to be around when they grow up.

"It will be good for them to look back at these images and compare.

"Yes, it is to challenge the Essex girl stereotype but I also want to show the diversity as well."

He said the Essex Girl stereotype was a "combination of three biases all working together" - gender, geography and class - and that he, as a man with a working class background - wanted to explore each element in his work.

image copyrightMark Massey
image captionFitness instructor Becky Scott

Mr Massey said he was particularly keen on photographing within his own community and local issues.

Until recently, however, he had not done much portrait photography.

image copyrightMark Massey
image captionJosephine Melville is an actress, director, producer and writer

"I'm quite shy and get anxious in social situations," he said. "So it is good for me to push myself.

"I don't want the images to be my interpretation of a person.

"I wanted each image to be a collaboration, by getting each person to suggest a theme, choose the location and to choose what they wear."

image copyrightMark Massey
image captionJuliet Townsend, consultant and voluntary worker
image copyrightMark Massey
image captionArtist, researcher and academic Arooj Khan

So far he has worked with 25 women and has a list of 35 people in waiting.

He said he was keen to make the eventual collection as diverse as possible, whether in terms of ability, ethnicity, age, place, occupation or body shape.

image copyrightMark Massey
image captionPlaywright, author and actress Sadie Hasler who wrote the play Stiletto Beach

Alongside the photographs, each subject has been asked if there is anything they wanted to say about their own experience of the "Essex Girl" stereotype.

Once the project is complete, these statements would sit alongside the image, whether displayed in an exhibition or publication.

image copyrightMark Massey
image captionAcademic Terri Simpkin photographed outside the former council house in Colchester that she grew up in

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