Sheffield Beer City: Photographer Mark Newton on capturing the northern beer scene
It’s a bit about capturing the chaos and the character, but also how it all comes together to produce great beer.
Mark Newton has been capturing the Yorkshire beer scene for over six years now, showcasing the region’s many breweries, venues and the people who bring it to life.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got into beer photography? You mostly shoot around Yorkshire, right?
It’s kind of expanded a bit to Manchester now. But yeah, a lot of my work tends to be in Sheffield, Leeds, York and the fun middle ground in-between. I live near Wakefield, so I’m based in a good place for it. The part of my work I like the best is getting out to a location, meeting people and trying to sum up their business through the pictures.
My approach is very much a case of going in, having a chat and letting people do what they would normally do. Although my photography can be used for commercial/marketing purposes, I like to think it also has an editorial style, and I think the best way to do that is to make it about telling a story. It’s about seeing what gets people excited and passionate, then trying to capture that, why they love what they do.
How did your work become quite focused on beer photography?
When I first went full-time, I decided to do a project for myself, which was photographing loads of breweries around the north. I started off with Cloudwater in Manchester, and as I was figuring out who else to shoot, I started chatting to the team at Hop & Barley magazine, who invited me to do a feature on a pub and brewery guide to Leeds. We shot places like Northern Monk, then that led into doing Thornbridge, and that led into other places. I really enjoyed shooting in places that were often dark, dingy and steamy. People seemed to like the style, so I guess it just went from there.
What sort of locations do you most like to shoot?
In terms of Sheffield, I think Abbeydale Brewery is a good example. It’s a real interesting mix of spaces, some of which are a bit ramshackle, and they seem to have added a new bit every time I visit. So, it’s a bit about capturing the chaos and the character, but also how it all comes together to produce great beer. Sometimes it’s about taking some things that might seem a little everyday and bringing them to life.
Another big thing about my photography is using the natural light. So, on that note, a perfect setting would be a cosy, comfortable traditional pub with a pint on the table and some light coming through the window. I want people to be able to look at the ambience of an image like that and think to themselves, ‘I really want to go there.’
I suppose you’re pretty spoilt for choice in Sheffield when it comes to those settings.
Absolutely. Somewhere like The Rutland Arms or Shakespeares – loads of character, cosy and the way the light falls in. Nothing beats that kind of thing for me.
You’ve worked on a couple of things with Sheffield Beer Week over the years, the Yorkshire Beer Trail and the People’s Trail for example. What inspired you about those projects?
The Yorkshire Beer Trail was inspired by how Yorkshire is such a mix of different cities and places, which leads to a huge amount of choice in terms of bars, pubs and breweries. It was a way of trying to show how the region has got it all, really digging down to the processes behind brewing. The next year, The People’s Beer Trail, was more about the people and showing the variety of people beer can excite in Sheffield. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people. When it comes to great events like Sheffield Beer Week, it doesn’t really matter how good the specific events are on paper – it’s the people that go who make it what it is.