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Drivers In The Eighties

April 26, 2015
by the gentle author

Today it is my pleasure to publish this selection of favourite photographs from Chris Dorley-Brown’s DRIVERS IN THE EIGHTIES, newly published by Hoxton Minipress this month

Honda Moped, Mare St

Ford Sierra, Bishopsgate

Vauxhall Astra, Piccadilly

Vehicle unknown, Bishopsgate

Ford Transit, London Bridge

Routemaster Bus, Bank

Telecom Van, City of London

Ford Escort, Gracechurch St

Peugeot 604, Mare St

Vauxhall Astramax, Moorgate

Leyland Sherpa, Mare St

Peugeot 305, Old St

Ford Escort Van, London Wall

Ford Tipper, Mare St

Black Cab, Bank

Toyota Corolla, London Bridge

Vehicle unknown, Bishopsgate

Austin Maestro Van, London Bridge

Black Cab, Mare St

Bedford Plaxton Coach, London Bridge

“I grew up around cars. Dad was a car man – he bought them, sold them, mended and polished them and sold the petrol to make them run. When I was eight years old, he arrived home one day in the most glamorous Ford I had ever seen – convertible Cortina Mk2, off- white with a black canvas roof. We piled in and went for a spin on country roads and at one point stopped to admire the view. I picked up mum’s camera and for the first time in my life I took a photograph. It was of the old man, still in his work clothes, dark suit and tie, looking out of the car window.

These images are from the first five rolls of colour film I ever shot. Simple portraits, faces and torsos reframed by the windscreens and doors of the vehicles, they hold a stillness in a world of movement and unpredictability. I never bought another roll of black and white film again, the journey had started.

My destination was to record the sell-off of Rolls Royce in May 1987 – one in a series of unedifying gold-rush stampedes – and as I left the studio on foot and headed towards Bank Station, the traffic on Mare St and Hackney Rd were gridlocked by people trying either to get to the sell-off, or mainly, trying to avoid it. It was the first warm day of the year and the drivers and passengers were trapped – impatient, sweaty, wanting to be outside in the sunshine. As far as I and the Rolleiflex were concerned, they were asking for it. I could get close, very close. They were sitting ducks.

I followed the traffic and walked south onto Shoreditch High St, then all the way down to the river by London Bridge. Tourists were stuck on open top Routemaster buses, motorcycle couriers were lighting fags, engines idled, the lights would only let a few through on green before the waiting continued. The sell-off was causing chaos, drivers looked deflated, maps were consulted for escape routes, midday editions of the Evening Standard given the once-over, frustrated children plonked on drivers laps. The traffic islands, surrounded by those now long-gone steel barriers, provided a refuge from which to take photos, and I was more or less invisible, able to fully concentrate on these prisoners of glass, metal and capitalist reverie.”

Chris Dorley-Brown

Peter Dorley-Brown in his Ford Cortina, 1967

Photographs copyright © Chris Dorley-Brown

Click here to buy your copy of Chris Dorley- Brown’s DRIVERS IN THE EIGHTIES direct from Hoxton Minipress

9 Responses leave one →
  1. anne gray permalink
    April 26, 2015

    Perfect pictures. !’Stuck in traffic’!

  2. Rich Barnett permalink
    April 26, 2015

    For a car lover like me this is a fantastic work – makes a change from the usual cliched images of E-Type/Mini Mokes in swinging ’60s London. I especially liked the Renault 20 (of which fewer than 10 survive in the UK) in the foreground of the Telecom van pic.

  3. José Cadaveira permalink
    April 26, 2015

    Fantastic photos, must get this wonderful book!

  4. April 26, 2015

    Top picture of man on scooter in Mare St. I worked for L.B. of Hackney 1984 to 87, based at 205 Morning Lane. The man looks familiar to me, although he looks like he’s doing “The Knowledge” prep. I think he may have worked at the Town Hall.

  5. Hardy permalink
    April 26, 2015

    Love your pictures and your writing. You deserve every success with the book. More of Chris please GA.

  6. April 26, 2015

    How unusual; really great pix. (Nowadays, you might get your nose biffed…)

  7. Grahame Bredbere permalink
    April 27, 2015

    The unknown vans could be Talbot Express’s going by the colour of the seat upholstery and headrests! I need to get out more!

  8. Stephen permalink
    April 27, 2015

    Of my many years of living and visiting London, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a scooter without an “L” plate attached. Is it only delivery & Knowledge people that actually use them 🙂

  9. April 27, 2015

    I could look at these photographs all day long.

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