A Cambridge Diary is a collection of unremarkable stories that are remarkable in terms of their humanity', says creator Martin Bond. Every day for eleven years, street photographer Martin has taken a picture of Cambridge. A Cambridge Diary captures the intimate and vulnerable but (above all) joyous and beautiful moments of Cambridge and its diverse residents. Nearly four thousand pictures and almost sixty thousand followers later, Martin looks back on the last decade with both pride and incredulity: 'I’m kind of stuck with it. I think if I stopped, I’d probably just burst,' he says.

© 2010-2019 MARTIN BOND

The project began accidentally in March 2010 when Martin, whilst trying out a new camera lens, captured the moment a painter realised he had dropped paint on his sandwiches. Realising how much the image of Cambridge is dominated by the University, Martin felt that it was important to provide a record of the city and its people outside it.

A Cambridge Diary was only meant to last one year, with Martin uploading a picture to his Facebook page every day. 'After the first year I didn’t want to stop,' he explains, 'so I carried on.'

While photographing, Martin always remains on the outside and rarely talks to the people he captures. 'Only if they catch me,' he says. 'I learned to anticipate and trust the spontaneity.' Rather than searching for the perfect spot or the perfect lighting, he looks for small moments, comparing his work to 'going on a human safari, taking people at their most natural.'

A Cambridge Diary is an unusual collection of the intricacies of Cambridge landscapes, its interesting characters, and human interactions.

© 2010-2019 MARTIN BOND

A Cambridge Diary is an unusual collection of the intricacies of Cambridge landscapes, its interesting characters, and human interactions. One of his most striking pictures, for example, is of an older lady in a red coat sitting on King’s parade, her hands folded; one wonders whether she is praying or simply sitting, worried or just waiting. Others show students laughing, children dancing, stone-masons working. Each picture offers a glimpse into a life, yet without ever intruding.

Having become something of a Cambridge celebrity, Martin finds that often people who have appeared in his pictures come forward to give an insight into their personal stories. Only recently Martin took a picture of a fighter jet visible through a gap in the dark clouds; shortly afterwards he received a message from the pilot flying the plane: 'That has to be the best tagging so far.' Martin’s enthusiasm for this aspect of the project is clear: it’s about unearthing people’s stories and creating a space for engagement. 'It reinforces this sense of community, not just online but in Cambridge, and that is the driving force behind this project,' he says.

© 2010-2019 MARTIN BOND
© 2010-2019 MARTIN BOND

His own story is no less interesting. 'I’ve never had a design for life. There isn’t enough time to go through all the things I’ve done as a job.' Born in Cambridge, Martin left school at fifteen and started working at a surveyor’s office; from there he went on to sing in a successful rock band, work in a record store, at a local newspaper, in advertising and as a Yoga teacher. His journey to photography was equally unplanned. While working as a graphic designer, he was invited to a golfing tournament with high-profile guests such as Hugh Grant and Michael McIntyre. The photographer failed to turn up, so Martin spontaneously offered to take the pictures on an old Canon he had borrowed from a friend. From there he began shooting more and more events and was doing less and less graphic design.

© 2010-2019 MARTIN BOND

Now in his eleventh year of street photography, Martin looks back and admits that 'it hasn’t been an overnight success.' It was, in fact, a learning process. Amongst other things, the project involved learning how to interact with vulnerable subjects such as children, the elderly, or the homeless, and dealing with criticism online. 'Anything where there is a hint of vulnerability, people take offence', Martin explains. In particular, he receives criticisms for photographing elderly women and children. Not wanting to focus only on the 'pretty things and the attractive people', Martin looks to reflect humans at their most natural: 'if I’ve seen that vulnerability, I’ve found it endearing, or moving enough in a caring way to capture.'

As expected, lockdown has been a challenge: 'I’m so frustrated at the moment that there is so little to photograph that I’ve been taking pictures of cats in windows.' The impact of Covid is noticeable in Martin’s pictures; humans are often absent, and Cambridge seems quieter (although no less beautiful). 'Lockdown has revealed the secret beauty of Cambridge to me,' says Martin. It also meant discovering the immediate countryside, particularly the Fens. 'We live in quite a spectacular place – even though it’s just flat, the skies are amazing. I’ve discovered clouds in lockdown,' he laughs. 'I’ve become a huge fan of clouds.'

© 2010-2019 MARTIN BOND

'What I love about Cambridge is that it has this amazing rhythm – the University provides a melody to the city.' The arrival of freshers, bumps, May balls, graduations, the 'beautiful hiatus of summer', and then everything starts again. While his project initially focused on the city apart from the University, students now feature more prominently in Martin’s photography. 'I miss them. I swear about them sometimes,' he laughs. 'But I really do miss them. There is this vitality with youth, this constant injection with young people – it keeps the city young.'


Mountain View

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Sometimes Martin walks for hours to find the perfect picture, sometimes it takes just thirty minutes – but in eleven years he hasn’t missed a day. Initially he wanted to stop A Cambridge Diary last year after a full decade of doing the project, but then Covid happened. 'This is not the time to stop taking pictures,' he thought. Now, he doesn’t know when – or if – he will stop. Street photography has taught him a lot, and not just as an artist: 'it’s taught me to look at things and not to be too quick to judge. I’m hoping it makes me a little more open.' Photography is a way to focus on humanity – 'it reveals more of the world to you.'

© 2010-2019 Martin Bond All rights reserved. All images are the exclusive property of Martin Bond and may not be reproduced without written permission. InstagramTwitter, Facebook