Photographer Dougie Wallace has an obsession with fashion billboards. You’ll find them dotted throughout his work documenting east London. He sees them as the result of a process that’s been years in the making.
‘One of the barometers for gentrification is street art,’ he explains. ‘It started with big, bristly white letters: Shoreditch used to be a no-go area, with things like “Fuck the police” written on the walls. Later, that became street art. Then, gentrification.’ Now, Wallace says that the street art has been ‘appropriated by Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Burberry. It’s commercialised. Shoreditch has sold out.’ That’s the impetus behind ‘East Ended’, his latest exhibition at Gallery 46, featuring witty and sometimes surreal photographs of east London scenes.
His photograph of a market on Sclater Street (above) captures the contradictions as the old East End meets contemporary Shoreditch: inked-up partiers making their way home, shoulder-to-shoulder with box-rummaging old locals, in front of a wall of Burberry ads. ‘The young people were on their phones and prancing about – it was a Sunday morning, so they were probably still out from the night before,’ says Wallace. ‘The old guy that’s going through the rubbish, he’s always there. Same with the other two. The clash of cultures says it all, really. That market isn’t going to be there very soon. It’ll be gone.’
Wallace happened upon this scene unfolding just off Brick Lane by chance. ‘I’ve been going down to that market every week for about two years,’ he says. ‘I’ve probably walked around there about 200 times with my camera.’
The photographer has been documenting this rapidly changing area for the last 20 years. When he first started, everything revolved around a few pubs. ‘The Bricklayers Arms, The Joiners Arms and The Golden Heart: there wasn’t really anything else,’ he says. Still, he finds the area’s shifting identity exciting to witness. ‘It’d be pretty boring, otherwise. I like all the changes. I’m just reporting what I see.’
‘East Ended’ is at Gallery 46 until Sat Mar 21. Free
Find things to do in Shoreditch
Some say Shoreditch has had its day, that London’s trendy brigade have moved on. If you go to Brick Lane Market, though, it doesn’t look that way. The weird and wonderfully dressed hordes keep coming to Shoreditch, packing into ramshackle bars and independent shops in and around the rough triangle made up by Old Street, Great Eastern Street and Shoreditch High Street.