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Night At Spitalfields Market

June 5, 2017
by the gentle author

Although they were taken only a quarter of a century ago, these photographs by Mark Jackson & Huw Davies preserved in the archive at Bishopsgate Institute, seem now to be images from the eternal night of history – with fleeting figures endlessly running, fetching and carrying, pushing barrows from the flaring lights out into the velvet blackness, where a bonfire burns beneath the great tower of Christ Church, Spitalfields, looming overhead.

Mark Jackson & Huw Davies were poets with cameras, aware that they were in an epic world with its own codes and customs, and they recognised the imperative to record it before it disappeared. No one asked them and no one paid them. As recent graduates, Mark & Huw shared a tiny flat and worked, as a courier and in a restaurant respectively, to buy film and subsidise their project. Each evening they took the last tube to Liverpool St Station and spent the night at the market, taking pictures and befriending the traders, before going straight back to work again in the morning, often without any sleep.

Like many of the most inspiring cultural projects, this remarkable body of photography was the result of individuals pursuing their own passion. Mark & Huw were committed to record what no one else was interested to look at. Neither became photographers and their greater project to record all the London markets was reluctantly abandoned when they went off to pursue other careers, but their Spitalfields Market photographs are unrivalled in the photography of markets.

Photographs copyright © Mark Jackson & Huw Davies

You may also like to take a look at

Mark Jackson & Huw Davies at the Spitalfields Market

The Return of Mark Jackson

Ivor Robins, Fruit & Vegetable Purveyor

Blackie, the Last Spitalfields Market Cat

A Farewell to Spitalfields

5 Responses leave one →
  1. June 5, 2017

    Wonderful photos, packed with memories and that wonderful atmosphere. Valerie

  2. Rosemary Hoffman permalink
    June 5, 2017

    very evocative although I never saw it at night !

  3. June 5, 2017

    I am pleased Mark & Huw’s photos have been shown today they record the hustle & bustle of a busy market staying up all night to achieve it. These two zing men captured all this during a cold winter with snow about, the scene is one of chaos with arriving stock piled high every where – all will be well by opening time. That’s the time when traders are at their busiest dealing & buying stock, getting ready for the morning rush. Good pics show porters using the traditional long based barrow, short barrow & sack trucks all recorded by these photo men. They have given us a glimpse into a dynamic past all change now. Where are they now? I hope they read GA’s blog today, its your show Mark & Huw. Poet John

  4. Helen Breen permalink
    June 5, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, what striking photos. So glad they were left to Bishopgate for posterity. It appears that accounts were kept with pencil and paper only in the market – no computers or calculators in sight.

    Imposing Christ Church in the background – timeless…

  5. June 5, 2017

    There is something captured here in the faces and bearing of the older men, a kind of working class dignity combined with a touch of weariness that puts me in mind of my late step father. Of long hours and many years of labour. I was touched.

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