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This photo celebrates ‘the godmother’ of Tooting Market who’s been there for decades

We talk to photographer Alex Lambert about her shot of Tooting Market and why it’s a vital neighbourhood hub

Isabelle Aron
Written by
Isabelle Aron

At Tooting Market, everyone knows Gloria. Actually, it’s ‘Ms Gloria’. ‘That’s what she’s referred to at the market,’ explains local photographer Alex Lambert, who took this portrait. ‘She’s the godmother of the market.’

In the last few months, community in London has become more important than ever, whether that’s looking out for your neighbour or being on first name terms with your local shopkeeper. That’s what Lambert wanted to celebrate with this portrait of the Tooting Market trader and her shop, which has been there for decades.

Lambert took the photo in 2017 as part of a portrait series where she photographed all the stallholders in Tooting Market. At the time, it was under threat from developers and she was working with the save Tooting Market campaign to champion this local spot. ‘The market is the beating heart of the community,’ says Lambert. ‘It’s what makes Tooting Tooting, so I was keen to make sure that came through in the photograph. People like Gloria have run these businesses for years – it’s important to support them.’

If there’s an upside to the last few months, it’s that Londoners have really started to value their local amenities – the corner shop with a reliable stash of flour, the pub doing takeaway pints, the restaurant pivoting to takeaway to save you from your own cooking. It’s people like Gloria who’ve kept our city going. ‘During the pandemic, local places like this have been a real lifeline for people,’ says Lambert. ‘Not just in terms of the goods that they’re selling but in terms of seeing a friendly face and feeling a bit more normal.’

While the photo captures Tooting Market, Lambert believes it says something broader about what makes London what it is. ‘The city is a multicultural melting pot,’ she says. ‘No matter who you are, you can move to London and you’re instantly a Londoner and you’ll find your people. For me, that’s what this picture of Gloria represents – the wonderful side of London’s community.’ 

This photo has been shortlisted for the annual ‘Portrait of Britain’ exhibition. The accompanying book is published by Hoxton Mini Press.

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