There are many fabric shops on the Goldhawk Road, heaving with all sorts of bizarre and bling reams of textiles. if you like glittery fabric, I recommend a visit – you will have never seen such wonders. Walking into one of these plush emporia is like entering the royal harem of Babylon (if Darius had had a penchant for polyester and was looking to save a few quid). I have absolutely no doubts that MC Hammer’s trousers were cut from Goldhawk Road cloth.
Now I know these places can be a bit natty, even sketchy. I once saw one of them being raided by the rozzers – it was the front for a (quite surprisingly large) drugs operation. So I expect the fabulous and the gaudy but my heart skipped a beat when I saw what one unhinged window-dresser has created. Evidently after a good bucket of PCP.
Hang on a second… Is this serious? Is the merchant psychotic? Am I psychotic? Or is this some perverse parody of the film Mannequin?
Henry VIII squatting in a yurt of spangled drapes… Look at the elegant pose, the jaunty cap, the sparkling jewelleries, the butter-stained ruff, the arrogant lust in the eye of the king! The vignette was created by a craftsman so skilful, it would take Shelley to capture his majestic eye for detail.
You have to wonder what they are hoping to achieve, who they are hoping to attract to their wares. Probably the queen. I am sure she likes MC Hammer.
Shepherd’s Bush market is a peaceful place. Hang on, hear me out. It is long and narrow, running along the Hammersmith and City line arches between Goldhawk Road and Shepherd’s Bush, and so has acoustics which seem to dampen sound. Even when the market is relatively full, you sense a heavy hush underneath the bustle, disturbed only by the occasional hiss of a tube-train surfing past.
Admittedly there is some crazy, run-down shit in the market. You can buy hair-pieces and stomachs, cauldrons and fibrous thongs, jackfish and clothes of quite astonishing mis-design. This rack of oddity is typical blog fodder for me.
But today I chose to take a shortcut through the market after all the traders had packed up and pulled down the shutters. I reckon that after all the traders had left the character of the market was clearer to see, distilled in the stillness. However, my next visit will be in the daytime – I’d love to see the goods purveyed by ‘Hash Choice Gents Wear’.
These pictures were all taken on a Rolleiflex medium format twin lens reflex. The camera is a beautiful piece of German design, with stunning attention to detail and build quality. On the down side you only get a dozen (big and gorgeous) exposures per roll, and it is not cheap. On the up side the quality of the originals surpasses that of the best £2000 SLRs by Nikon and Canon. Not bad for something that looks like it belongs in a Film Noir.
The camera used to belong to my grandfather, and he took it all over Europe taking pictures of architecture, design, and generally anything interesting enough to be used his books on visual education. I am glad I can still put it to good use! Believe it or not, the TLR is designed to be light and compact- and it is surprisingly so, especially for a medium format camera.
Nowadays medium format is mainly used for studio work, where its ultra-high resolution makes it suitable for billboard size enlargements (there medium-format digital backs – they cost £50k). It is also very popular in lomography, where the fun is in marvelling at the weird effects of low-quality cameras with plastic lenses on the big squares of film.
I really loved the restriction of having so few exposures to play with. I am so used to indulgence of free photos in the digital format it is too easy to forget the pleasure of being made to wait and really read a situation. How rewarding it is to sit and wait with your finger poised above the shutter release for ten minutes before taking the one, precious exposure! It teaches you to really value every shot, to use all your skills of predicting human behaviour to catch the right moment, to read light and motion with your eye-brain and not rely on the thinking skills of a chip.
If I had to take a single shot of the most beautiful subject I would ever see, I would take it on this beautiful Rollei TLR.