Selling goods this way — on rickety wooden tables or simply strewn on the floor — won’t be around forever. It’s too old-fashioned. A short walk away shows an inkling of what will happen; Old Spitalfields market has modernized. Restaurants, coffee stalls, and even the odd designer clothing shop line its edges and if you’re very lucky, you can find trendy barbers there, too.

Brick Lane, however, has stuck to its old ways. Perhaps it is because it is an open-air market — risky with the British weather but wonderful when the light is right. The colours sing when shot on Kodak EKTACHROME.

Everything is changing. You don’t know how long you’ve got until it changes again.

Just like the market, many items for sale have seen better days (many, many years ago in some cases). DVDs of films long forgotten, electrical goods from the previous century and lots and lots of clothing. Here and there a sparkle as the sun is caught by dainty jewellery.

Along with the images presented in this article, you’ll find a number of videos I recorded at the same time. Together, I hope they convert some feeling of the hustle and bustle of the market.

Anything can be bought for a bargain if you know where to go. That’s the joy of it.

Some of the regulars have been here for years selling their wares. I wonder where they will go when this place is knocked down? Dispersed to the four corners of the city if they are lucky. If not, many miles outside.

What’s that you say, why would they knock it down? That’s how cities are, restless, relentless, renewing. Nothing stays the same for too long. With a few exceptions that London has taken to heart, thankfully.

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The area is up for regeneration. You see, the East End has had a reputation for many years as being one of the poorest parts of the city. Whitechapel is no more than half a mile from Brick Lane, an area that became notorious for the Jack the Ripper murders at the tail end of the 19th century.

London has money now and has settled its sights on the surrounding area. It is only a matter of time before the buildings lining Brick Lane are pulled down and replaced. But that’s the joy and frustration of being a street photographer.

Everything is changing. You don’t know how long you’ve got until it changes again.

As the market only happens on a Sunday there is a lot of time in between for anything to happen. If you do fancy going, get yourself down to the old Truman Brewery where an eclectic food market brings wonderful sights and smells. And after you’ve had your fill, set off North and wander past the stalls selling vintage music and antiques where you will find the real flavour of the Brick Lane market.

Anything can be bought for a bargain if you know where to go. That’s the joy of it.

And maybe, if they come back, you might be entertained by a street performer. Some of the musicians are very good. Oh, and one last thing, there are still some characters around. Some you might want to steer clear of, others, well they are the ones that make the market special. Keep your eye out for those.

There are more of those in the flower market further North, but that’s a story for another day. Just like the market though, these people are slowly disappearing. So go take those photos now, while it’s still there.

These images were shot using my Nikon F2 on Cinestill 50D and Kono Delight (the Kono was edited in Lightroom as I didn’t like the look) and self-developed. Thank you for reading.

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About the author

James Harris

My first film camera was a 110 which was a present when I was 14. But I moved away from film when digital seemed to be the way forward. Then I got back into film photography in December 2017 when I bought...

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