Mark Jackson’s Magic Lantern Show
Photographer Mark Jackson will be showing his pictures of Spitalfields Fruit & Vegetable Market, and talking about their origin, at the Bishopsgate Institute next Thursday 13th March at 7:30pm Click here to book online
In the last eighteen months of the Fruit & Vegetable Market in Spitalfields, photographers Mark Jackson & Huw Davies set out to record the nocturnal life of the market that operated on this site for over three centuries before it closed in 1991. As recent graduates, Mark was working in a restaurant and Huw was a bicycle courier. Without any financial support for their ambitious undertaking, they saved up all their money to buy cameras and rolls of film, converting a corner of their tiny flat into a darkroom.
“It was quite a struggle,” Mark Jackson confided to me, “because we weren’t earning a lot of money. But Spitalfields fired our imaginations. We caught the last tube to Liverpool St and spent the night there taking photographs, before heading into work next morning.”
This particular set of images take us on a cinematic journey from the busy nocturnal world, when the market was active, through dawn into the early morning after the drama subsided. Mark & Huw photographed a dignified gallery of the market traders and the homeless people who were drawn by the fire that always burned to alleviate their discomfort ever since the market was granted its charter. We no longer see any of these characters in Spitalfields. These men would look displaced here in the renovated market today, they are soulful faces from a universe that is gone. When I walk through the empty Spitalfields Market at night now, it lacks the performance of the nightly drama that ran from 1638 when Charles I signed the licence to commence trading.
Even though Mark & Huw took their pictures only a little more than twenty years ago, they describe a society that feels closer to the world Charles Dickens knew than our own present tense in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Inspired by Tom Hopkinson and Bert Hardy’s work at Picture Post, these photographs were to become the first of a series documenting all the markets of London, that might have become a lifetime’s vocation for Mark & Huw. It was not to be. Life intervened and, without any support, the projected sequence was abandoned. Mark became a writer and Huw is now a teacher – they each have lives beyond their nascent photographic enterprise – but these pictures are an honourable contribution to the canon of British documentary photography.
Photographs copyright © Mark Jackson & Huw Davies
Take a look at more of Mark Jackson & Huw Davies’ photographs