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.

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 and this when the big pantechnicons come in from all over the UK with their loads of meat. This is off loaded and then, the really work begins. Whole carcasses are then cleaved and sectioned and made ready for sale and delivery.

The market halls start to get 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.

Buy around 8:00 AM its 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, the EU stepped in and “enforced” changes to “improve” hygiene at the market. Mainly 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.
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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