The photographer uncovering the past of one of London's most rapidly gentrified neighbourhoods

in Inspiration / Photography

For a few years, it was rare to see the word "Dalston" without a prefix along the lines of "London's trendy".

The neighbourhood in the east of the capital soon began to rival Shoreditch for its inviting of short-sighted hipster ridicule; but to see it solely through a tabloid lens that focuses only on pop ups and fixed gear bikes is to do it a massive disservice.

As with the rest of the borough of Hackney, Dalston has almost become a victim of its own massive successes in recent years. It's a familiar trajectory - the ramshackle, yet electric spot with a brilliant sense of identity draws in artists for its cheap rent, a creative community forms, edginess becomes a positive adjective, and the canny developers and landlords suddenly take notice.

But for Dalston, this accolade as a site bustling with outré nightlife and a spine tingling sense of possibilities isn't something cooked up by Goldsmiths Alumni in the last 15 years, or estate agents in the last ten. It's been there far longer than that, as a beautiful and fascinating new photo ok from Hoxton Mini Press, Dalston in the 80s attests.

The book presents images by photographer Andrew Holligan shot using a 1950s Rolleiflex camera, capturing the nuances of the area before its rapid recent gentrification. Holligan moved to the area in 1984, turning his back on his job as a fashion photographer in New York to confront this strange little pocket of East London.

Over two years he spent there, he met and photographed a wealth of fascinating characters, and their stories are told through sensitive monochrome in his beautifully shot images.

"He found a humanity on the streets that changed him and his art forever," says the publisher.

That humanity is still there, if you're looking for it: it's in the market stall holders calls, in the dark dance floor of Dalston Superstore, behind the ragtag curtains of Vogue Fabrics' toilets, under the bright lights of a late night kebab shop, among the exotic looking tins and jars that fill the aisles of the Turkish supermarket. Let's not forget that as we collectively lament the next shiny, faceless development of luxury flats that pops up, seemingly out of nowhere. All is not lost, yet.

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