Paul Trevor’s spirited photographs of Brick Lane in the 1970s and 1980s bring a forgotten London back to life
Before Brick Lane was covered in street art and boutique shops, it was a half-formed mishmash of litter-strewn market stalls, smoky pubs and corrugated iron half-covering decades-old bomb sites. The east London road, an artery linking Bethnal Green to Spitalfields, was home to a mix of teddy boys, cockney housewives and newly-arrived Bangladeshi migrants in dapper flared suit trousers. Paul Trevor spent three decades documenting the area, creating an archive of a London street life that now, after decades of gentrification and the disappearance of playing children, looks starkly foreign.
A self-taught photographer, Paul Trevor’s instinctual approach was perfectly suited to London’s chaotic street life. More attuned to the gritty, kinetic tradition of William Klein and Daido Moriyama than the lyricism of British photographers like Bill Brandt, his work shouts rather than sings. His Brick Lane photographs are full of a determined spirit of survival in a place which was then still rife with poverty and racial violence.
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