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Spitalfields Market Nocturne

November 4, 2020
by the gentle author

Although they were taken only thirty years 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

6 Responses leave one →
  1. November 4, 2020

    Just fabulous – a lost world …

  2. Jason Saunders permalink
    November 4, 2020

    Amazing photos, so nostalgic. I used to go with my Dad to get produce for our stall in Petticoat Lane. Is it possible to see the archive or buy some prints? I was in the revamped site this weekend. Very different indeed!

  3. paul loften permalink
    November 4, 2020

    Thank you for showing these magnificent photographs that capture the other side of midnight in a Spitalfields once lost but now found thanks to Mark and Huw along with the Bishopsgate Institute

  4. Herry Lawford permalink
    November 4, 2020

    Wonderful! Praises to all chroniclers.

  5. Dave Rees permalink
    November 4, 2020

    Outstanding studies, where documentary becomes art. In the life of the City, a heartbeat ago, but gone and irrecoverable. Thanks to all involved.

  6. November 6, 2020

    Beautiful photographs that document our wonderful city. It makes you sad that it’s usually money that forces people out and we lose an amazing institution at the heart of the city. It will be Billingsgate next. What’s that land worth?

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