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Phil Maxwell At The Old Spitalfields Market

December 19, 2012
by the gentle author

Since 1981, when he moved to London from Liverpool, Phil Maxwell has been taking pictures daily on Brick Lane, creating an unparalleled canon of photography that records the changing face of Spitalfields over the last thirty years.

So, in 1991, when the nocturnal Fruit & Vegetable Market which flourished here for more than three centuries was to be moved out, Phil turned his attention to capturing the last days of this unique phenomenon. These pictures compose Phil’s personal elegy to the Market which – along with the Truman Brewery – once comprised the core of Spitalfields’ historic identity as London’s first industrial suburb.

“It was a great place to wander around because there was so much life in it,” Phil recalled fondly, “The Market had its own ecosystem that surrounded it, including the homeless people who gravitated there, the ladies of the night who ran a cottage industry servicing the lorry drivers, the women from Hackney who came every day to scavenge discarded vegetables, and the twenty-four hour pub and cafe trade. A lot of different people came through Spitalfields then.

I think of the Fruit & Vegetable Market as a dynamic and energetic place in contrast to the City of London next door. It was a barrier, as if there was a wall preventing the City expanding any further. But since the Market left the City has moved closer, causing a large increase in the price of property and land which increases rents. You can see the result today – it’s become very difficult for small businesses to survive because rents have become so high. There is no comparison between the liveliness of the Fruit & Vegetable Market and what you have now”

Photographs copyright © Phil Maxwell

Follow Phil Maxwell’s blog Playground of an East End Photographer

See more of Phil Maxwell’s work here

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

The Cat Lady of Spitalfields

Phil Maxwell, Photographer

Phil Maxwell & Sandra Esqulant, Photographer & Muse

Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies

More of Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies

Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies in Colour

Phil Maxwell on the Tube

and more pictures of the old Fruit & Vegetable Market here

Mark Jackson & Huw Davies’ Photographs of the Spitalfields Market

Spitalfields Market Portraits, 1991

Night at the Spitalfields Market, 1991

One Response leave one →
  1. December 20, 2012

    Extraordinary. Thank you Phil Maxwell for these beautiful photographs and for the proud record of the last fight to save this neighbourhood asset – our Spitalfields Market. You have made something great in telling this story with your pictures. The life is there, you are right. And it just bubbles up in your photos. By the end one can almost hear the soundtrack…
    Thank you Phil and to the Gentle Author. Happy Christmas…and thanks for everything.

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