Spitalfields Market Nocturne
Nowadays the Spitalfields Market shuts at night, but for centuries this was when it opened, as a vast nocturnal wholesale market for fruit and vegetables. Initiated by charter signed by Charles I in 1638, it existed in Spitalfields until 1991 when it moved to a custom-built market hall in Leytonstone.
I have already published a few pictures of the market by Mark Jackson & Huw Davies – two poets with cameras who came nightly during the last year and took thousands of photographs – but, returning to their vast canon of work to choose which to include in the Spitalfields Life book, I came across so many more wonderful images which have not been seen before that I could not resist publishing another selection for you today.
At the new market hall in Leytonstone forklift trucks were introduced, but in Spitalfields human labour dominated when it came to moving produce around whether by barrow, trolley or up on the shoulder. Such an occupation required brawn and physical fitness, attracting many ex-boxers, and the rigours of market life encouraged idiosyncrasy, as everyone fell into their larger-than-life roles over decades. Mark & Huw’s photographs delight in the dramatic chiaroscuro of bonfires, flaring lamps, glistening wet streets, velvet darkness and the coming dawn which impart these photographs an undeniable romance as a unique record of the last days of ancient market.
It is my privilege to be able to publish some of these photographs in print for the very first time in the book of Spitalfields Life, and the Bishopsgate Institute, which has digitized the entire collection, will be exhibiting a selection to coincide with publication.
Photographs copyright © Mark Jackson & Huw Davies
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