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Val Perrin’s Brick Lane

October 7, 2017
by the gentle author

Photography has been a lifetime’s hobby for Val Perrin. Yet it is apparent from this selection of his pictures of Brick Lane Market, taken between 1970-72, that he possesses a vision and ability which bears comparison with the Magnum photographers whose work he admired at that time.

While studying Medicine at University College, London, Val visited East End markets with members of the University Photographic Club, but Brick Lane drew his attention. Over the next two years, he returned alone and with fellow students, with whom he shared a flat in West Dulwich, to document the vibrant market life and surroundings of Brick Lane.

Born in Edgware, Val moved to live near Cambridge in 1976 and now photographs mainly wildlife and landscapes, but the eloquent collection of around a hundred photographs he took of Brick Lane in the early seventies comprises a significant and distinctive record of a lost era.

Photographs copyright © Val Perrin

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Unknown Photographs Of Brick Lane

14 Responses leave one →
  1. steve permalink
    October 7, 2017

    So wonderful to see the lane again as I remember it from my youth. I recognised virtually every brick, street and stall. I even feel I know half the faces, even if I really don’t, such is the familiarity of the photography. It accords so well with my own writing on life in Great Eastern Buildings where the sorts of ‘iffy geezers’ appearing in one or two of the photo’s often lived!

    What Val’s pictures don’t seize upon is the sense of wonderment and colour that characterised the lane – the vibrant atmosphere, the sense of oneness akin to a football crowd and the sheer joy of being there. A trip to the market was something to really look forward to. Perhaps that is a limit to black and white film? In any event I hope to bring out the ‘fun side’ in my writing.

    Nonetheless, brilliant stuff from Val Perrin – as all of us of a certain age regularly hope for, he really did, for a moment, turn back the clock!

  2. Jose Cadaveira permalink
    October 7, 2017

    Fabulous work!

  3. October 7, 2017

    More than a few leery types seem to have been hanging around. I fear for the puppy.

  4. October 7, 2017

    I fear for the puppy too.
    All those little boys looking like men

  5. October 7, 2017

    Some of the very best of the genre, well worth publishing I’d say.

  6. October 7, 2017

    A world now completely vanished. Must have been the last time people wore hats as a matter of course. And without a nod to world-weary irony.

  7. Helen Breen permalink
    October 7, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, great pics of bygone days – the men in caps, people smoking, long play albums and 78s for sale …

  8. John Campbell permalink
    October 7, 2017

    The fashion of the youth tells you the date of these pictures. Sheepskin jackets, Crombie coats, Fred Perry polo shirt with top button done up, Ben Shermans, sideburns, Harrington jackets, the odd pork pie hat in there. The soundtrack would have been the Trojan Ska scene with an emerging rude boy/skinhead movement, multiracial and healthy in poor areas like this but descending into right wing politics the further into the suburbs you travelled. I bet there were a few pair of braces in there too!

  9. Jo Gourlay permalink
    October 7, 2017

    What a great eye for a picture. Wonderful documentation of that area in that period. I started going to Petticoat Lane as a teenager on Sunday mornings in about 1974, Brick Lane not until early Eighties. It was still very rundown then, with lots of old men swapping items privately, lots of damp and rubbish; even an old Mosley poster that I photographed on a derelict shop in Cheshire Street.

  10. October 7, 2017

    These are brilliant photographs. Thanks for publishing them.

  11. Gary Arber permalink
    October 7, 2017

    This post should be viewed listening to “The streets of London”, they were all there, Wide Boys , Teds, the old girl with the pushchair and the three cards trick. There were people I recognised, one that I kept my eye on when he was in my shop. Clear photography that summed up the age.

  12. October 7, 2017

    Stating the obvious…….SO narrative. I went so far down the rabbit hole, looking at this series.
    After I got done imagining the dialogs, sound effects, chortling laughter, ambient noises, tunes, shout-outs, perhaps a little harmonica music, etc — I began thinking of what each person did when they left the market and went on their way. Yes, THAT kind of lasting power.
    Compelling, encrusted with telling detail, and an array of remarkable faces that will stay with me for a long time.
    I am so envious of the reader who commented that he recalled every brick, every face.
    Many thanks, GA. Again!

  13. Martin Ling permalink
    October 7, 2017

    As John Campbell rightly says, Brick Lane and Petticoat Lane were an important part of the early 70s skin/suede head scene. My elder bro and his pals would make regular trips up from the suburbs (Romford) to buy their DMs, tonic suits, Fred Perrys and Ben Sherman’s. In the 80s of course it got a bit nasty with nazi skins moving in around a shop which I think was called the Last Resort but stand to be corrected. Interesting to see a dash of the fashions across these excellent photos.

  14. Ron Bunting permalink
    February 15, 2018

    Oh to find a pushbike like that in a market today!!. A very pre 1920’s design ,I had a few as a young teenager because they were old and unlike anything else others were cycling around on . The last one I owned, i sold in 2000 for several hundred AUD .

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