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Homer Sykes in Spitalfields

April 11, 2013
by the gentle author

At the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in Brick Lane

From the moment he first came to London as a student until the present day, Homer Sykes has been coming regularly to Spitalfields and taking photographs. “It was very different from suburban West London where I lived, in just a few tube stops the contrast was extraordinary,” he recalled, contemplating the dislocated world of slum clearance and racial conflict he encountered in the East End during the nineteen seventies when these eloquent pictures were taken.

Yet, within this fractured social landscape, Homer made a heartening discovery that resulted in one of the photographs below. “The National Front were demonstrating as usual on a Sunday at the top of Brick Lane.” he told me, “I was wandering around and I crossed the Bethnal Green Rd, and I looked into this minicab office where I saw this Asian boy and this Caucasian girl sitting happily together, just fifty yards from the demonstration. And I thought, ‘That’s the way it should be.'”

“I walked in like I was waiting for a taxi and made myself inconspicuous in order to take the photograph. It seemed to sum up what should be happening – they were in love, and in a taxi office.”

In Princelet St

In Durward St

In a minicab office, Bethnal Green Rd

Selling the National Front News on the corner of Bacon St

Photographs copyright © Homer Sykes

Click here to buy a copy of Homer Sykes’ new book of photographs, BRICK LANE & CO: WHITECHAPEL IN THE 1970’s published this week by Cafe Royal Books at £5


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Homer Sykes, Photographer

12 Responses leave one →
  1. sprite permalink
    April 11, 2013

    The National Front at the top of Brick Lane every single Sunday morning, those were the days……..

    …… we do not miss! Any pictures of people selling the SWP paper that went hand in hand with it? A bit of nostalgia though for budleia’s sprouting out of about every top windows and pigeons flying out through broken panes.

    Brick Lane market –
    buying on the Sunday
    the bicycle
    that had been stolen sometime
    the previous week.

    a.k.a recycling economy


  2. Libby Hall permalink
    April 11, 2013

    What fine photographs!

    Of course, inevitable, that my favourite would be the dog in the window.

  3. Greg Tingey permalink
    April 11, 2013

    Homer Sykes, eh?
    Many years ago, he produced a classic book: “Once a Year”
    A catalogue (or claendar) of British Folk Customs – I have a copy.
    Good to know he’s still doing good work.

  4. April 11, 2013

    wonderful images.

  5. April 11, 2013

    Fantastic images. Thanks. Must look up the book!

  6. Adrianne LeMan permalink
    April 11, 2013

    Good to see that Homer is still around and taking photographs. I commissioned him sometimes, when I was Art Editor of The Illustrated London News, in the 1970s.

  7. April 11, 2013

    Great stuff!

  8. Chris F permalink
    April 11, 2013

    The streets of London ‘Paved with gold!’ There is something sad about the old lady selling her bits & bobs from the pram. Was she recently widowed? Did her husband drink away his wages? There’s a story there…….

  9. Cherub permalink
    April 11, 2013

    Sad to think that nearly 30 years after the war lot of people were still living in such poverty, there is loneliness and despair in the faces of some of the old here. As a teenager in the 70s I don’t actually remember it as a very happy time – grey, grimy, strikes everywhere. Started work in ’77 and then remember when we had the rubbish piling up, dead people not being buried and the army “green goddesses” on stand by if there was a fire (I worked at my local town hall and they used to sit at the ready in the square). Horrible, God forbid we ever go back to that.

  10. April 13, 2013

    Thanks for all the positive comments. Yes I am still around, and I remember well working for Adrianne LeMan, at the Illustrated London News. However these days I spend less time photographing, but a great deal of time work on my British Archive, work primarily from the 1970s through to the 1990s, plus some new documentary work as well.

    Once a Year is now a ‘rare’ book, partly because, though they printed a thousand copies, the publisher only had 200 copies bound. I met the printer at a lunch at Bert Hardy’s home, near Westerham in Kent, in the late 1980s, and he informed me that all the remaining ‘flat’ sheets had been thrown out a couple of year previously – they were clogging up the works.

    One day I hope to re-edit and then re-publish that volume.

  11. October 3, 2013

    Homer there was something magical about b/w shot on film photography that is missing these days ,, digital !!!!! just point and press, hundreds of the same image to choose from and not one of them is any good ,,,,I only shoot b/w film the magic starts in the camera and continues in the darkroom. . I have been enjoying homers work since I first see some pictures of he,s in the BJP
    annual 1972 ,we are very lucky in the uk, we have so many great photographers to choose from ..

    I am no were as good as Homer but I bet I have enjoyed photography just as much as him ..
    I have my own website with some of my photographs that I have taken over the years
    all the best

  12. Carmen Muscat permalink
    March 19, 2015

    I remember these days well as a child. The national front on the corner of Bacon street Brick lane Sunday market. I remember the gents shoe shop on the corner particularly well as my father who was a stall holder selling records stood on that very corner for 20 years.
    Great photo!

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