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Mark Jackson’s Magic Lantern Show

March 8, 2014
by the gentle author

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

Magic Lantern Shows by John Claridge on 2nd April and Phil Maxwell on 10th April

Take a look at more of Mark Jackson & Huw Davies’ photographs

Spitalfields Market Portraits, 1991

Night at the Spitalfields Market, 1991

A Walk Through Time in Spitalfields Market

9 Responses leave one →
  1. March 8, 2014

    Wonder and atmospheric photos. Valerie

  2. Greg Tingey permalink
    March 8, 2014

    Reminds me of Borough, just before it was re-invented.
    Apat ftom a hydraulic pallet-lifter & one gas-driven foklift, it might have been the set of “My Fair Lady” – one February night in 1996

  3. March 8, 2014

    Interesting fellows and atmospheres at that time …

    Love & Peace

  4. March 8, 2014

    Wonderful photography! Brings back memories of old Fifties that I love. It is almost Noir of that period.

  5. sbw permalink
    March 8, 2014

    These are great, thank you. Vanishing life.

  6. Libby Hall permalink
    March 8, 2014

    Beautiful photographs that now convey a nostalgic longing, not just for how life in London used to be, but somehow also a nostalgia for how photography used to be.

  7. March 8, 2014

    As you say, these images seem a lot older than they are. They really capture the end of something.

  8. March 11, 2014

    I wish Mark and Huw would re-visit the markets and take a series of future nostalgia. Is that Sid James at the top?! 🙂

  9. Bill Grandy permalink
    November 29, 2018

    I loved all the years I worked there for Butcher and Hopper London fruit exchange ,
    Does any one Remenber “TOM ” the lift man ?? He had a son name Neil , think he work
    For L, Ruby we palled football together 50 years ago , also what about Dinos cafe
    On Fridays always done the white page up for those who owed and on Monday
    When you saw it you couldn’t believe you owed that much , but that was Dino
    I love the London fruit exchange so many lovely young girls there all out for some
    Fun, who remembers Percy Dalton ?? Great guy and brother Jack , I bet mr
    Possener remebers them, how about the Smiths from Southend they were the
    Bees knees

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