‘After life in Manhattan, Dalston felt like the back of beyond,’ recounts Holligan in the opening notes of Dalston in the 80s, a visual ode to the East London hamlet. For two years, the photographer lived in a friend’s apartment above a bookmakers round the corner from Ridley Road market. With his Rolleiflex, Holligan took striking photographs of the area and the multi-cultural community.
From spontaneous street shots to the view out of his kitchen window – where he frequently would observe a man tinkering under the bonnet of a Mini Cooper – Holligan distilled this dynamic part of Hackney before its rapid gentrification.
Here, Holligan who now lives in the countryside, foraging mushrooms for London restaurants, tells me about the area he has captured so magnificently in black and white.
Culture Trip: When was the last time you were down Ridley Road market?
Andrew Holligan: About one year ago when the Dalston in the 80s book project started. I went to see how life had changed (or not) down Ridley Road market. I was surprised to see how little had changed considering all the media coverage about Dalston and hipsters and so on…
CT: What do you miss most about living in Hackney?
AH: I lived in Hackney until 2001 when I moved out of London to live in the countryside. I miss the gregariousness of urban life – its energy, creativity and diversity etc., and friends living nearby.
CT: What do you miss the least?
AH: When you live in the countryside, you don’t miss the pollution, congestion, anxiety and all the modern (stressful) conditions that go with urban life.
CT: Roughly how many photographs do you think you took during your two years living in Dalston?
AH: At a guess, no more than 50 rolls of medium format film — this would mean 600 photographs.
CT: Can you remember how people engaged with you photographing them?
AH: There is always uncertainty attached to street photography. This is what makes it appealing. People are all around and you have to learn how to gauge their reactions. Using an old manual camera has obvious disadvantages to digital cameras but the slowness of it has its advantages. I was able to get people’s attention for at least 10 seconds! 80s Dalsonites were more curious than suspicious of me with my old Rolleiflex.
CT: Did you ever work out who the car-tinkering man was?
AH: I was given an answer at my book launch by someone who still lives in the road I lived on, but I was also given a different answer from another Cecilia Road resident last night. One thing is clear; he is no longer alive, so he will probably remain a mystery.