SMITHFIELD MARKET – nothing like airing some historic work

This body of work – my photo essay on Smithfield Market – has been sitting in my archive for sometime now. Every now and then, something comes up prompting me to bring out the work and to give it an “airing”. Currently there’s a debate going on in London about redeveloping parts of the site. This has been something of an on-going saga in recent years.

Documenting Smithfield Market

That aside, I spent about two weeks at Smithfield Market documenting the working environment and the people working there. The market generally opens up at about 10:00 PM. This is when the big pantechnicons come in from all over the UK with their loads of meat – usually whole carcasses of beef, mutton and pork. These carcasses are off-loaded and, this is the real work really begins. These whole carcasses are usually cleaved and then sectioned and made ready for sale and delivery. There are few institutions that will buy whole carcasses – usually bespoke butchers shops, some of the supermarket chains, some hotels and various institutions. For the most part though, buyers are usually looking for cuts of meat in one form or other.

The market halls start getting busy at around 4:00 AM when buyers coming in to make their purchases. They come from all over – supermarket chains, butcher shops, hotels, restaurants and individual retailers and buyers.

By around 8:00 AM, it’s all over. Whatever meat is left over, is placed in cold storage, stalls are packed up, the stainless serving trays are scrubbed down and market halls saw dusted. All the workers either head off to the nearest pubs or coffee shops for breakfast or, they head off home. And, that’s more or less the working day at the market. This photo-essay is also more or less the story of Smithfield Market – as it was then.

A couple of years later and after I had done this work, the EU stepped in and “enforced” changes to “improve” hygiene at the market. This was mainly in the form of climate control throughout the market halls and workers having to wear protective clothing to avoid any direct contact with meat products being sold.

And there we are. The photo-essay can viewed at this link – enjoy!
The basic remit of this, The Lost Years Project, is to raise funds to bring this image, the body of work with which it is associated and other related photography done between 1976 to around 1994 together, to digitise the negatives from which these images are derived and then, to create various products such as prints, print portfolios and books featuring this photography. There is a wealth of photography here that should find its way into the public realm – one way or the other. The PDF eBooks I have on offer here are but a small token of this effort. There’s a lot more from where all this came.

About Rogan Coles
With over four decades of professional working experience in the field, Rogan produces images that are telling and compelling. His expertise in corporate branding and architectural photography has earned him a reputation as an accomplished professional in these fields. On the flipside – Rogan’s passion is social documentary photography and visual storytelling. As a visual storyteller, Rogan brings his own unique perspective to each of his projects, capturing the essence of the story being told. Rogan has worked extensively on architectural, corporate and editorial assignments across Asia, in the UK, Canada and across southern Africa.

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TECHNICAL NOTES: The camera used in the making of this image was a Leica M-4P and a LEICA 35mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX lens. The film used was likely to have been Ilford HP5 and developed in Ilford’s Ilfotec HC, a black and white film developer.

This article was originally written and published on February 23, 2014 on a predecessor to this website and uploaded here on 12 June, 2018.

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