Tate Etc

In Focus Edward with clock, off Cheshire Street Market, London 1983

The photographer reflects on the changing city as seen in one of her works

This picture is from my series of photographs of Spitalfields, started in 1975. It was exhibited for the first time at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in the spring of 1991. A few weeks before the pictures were due to be put on the wall I walked through Brick Lane with a box of the ones I had selected for the show, asking people at the Sunday market for their permission to exhibit the photographs I’d taken of them. I also asked for advice about titles for the pictures.

I did not find all of the people in my photographs. That was the nature of the market – it was a transient place. Some people visited only once, perhaps, while many others were regulars, attending the market almost every Sunday. Edward was one of these. He was happy for his photograph to be exhibited and thought that Edward with clock was the right title. Later on, he visited the exhibition. One of my students, who was there at the same time, noticed Edward standing in front of his picture for a very long time. Edward then suddenly turned to my student and asked him if the photograph was good. ‘One of the best’, my student said. He reported to me later that Edward had nodded in a contented way.

The dilapidated house with the boarded-up windows behind Edward with his clock was redeveloped and is now a block of luxury flats. The large and imposing figure of Edward no longer turns the corner of Cheshire Street or Brick Lane. Gone too is Arthur Carlos Howard selling bananas. Gone, Ginger playing his instruments every Sunday. Mr Kim’s bric-a-brac shop is no longer there, although Blackman’s shoe shop, next to Mr Kim’s house, is still there. People say that Blackman was wiser, that he saw it all coming and bought the house he was renting, while Mr Kim did not.

The market’s almost gone. It seems that what I diligently photographed, with the regularity of a churchgoer ever since I came to live in London – all through the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and, to a lesser degree, up to the present day – is a record of the end of the era of the Jewish Sunday markets of the East End. Fellow photographer Roger Mayne told me long ago: ‘The intention in mind must be to make a record and then an accident of having made the right record at the right time may produce ART’.

Edward with clock, off Cheshire Street Market, London 1983 was presented by Tate Members 2013 and forms part of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection.

Marketa Luskacova is a Czech photographer who lives and works in London. A selection of her photographs is on display at Tate Britain, 5 November – 14 April 2019.

You Might Like