Photographer Tamara zooms in on Ridley Road Market’s past, present and future
- Credit: Tamara Stoll
Tamara Stoll has filled a 250-page photo book with the stories of Ridley Road’s traders – some of whom are descended from generations of stallholders. But she needs Hackney’s help to get it into print. She speaks to Holly Chant
Photographer Tamara Stoll is on an ambitious mission to crowdfund £10,000 to self-publish her book about the past, present and future of Ridley Road market.
If she hits her target, the 250-page book will be sold on a market stall and any profits made will go to the Save Ridley Road campaign.
The book is a collection of old and new pictures she has taken of the market and people who go there. It includes stories from about 200 traders and locals, and newspaper clippings from the '60s showing local resistance to British fascism at the time.
"I started in 2011 when I was living on the high street," she told the Gazette. "Sometimes I would wake up very early - I was very close to the market - and I could just see the sun coming from my window.
"I thought: 'Let's go out and see what's happening here with my camera.'
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"There's such a good vibe here in the morning. It's just traders setting up - no customers, just the traders amongst themselves. A lot of banter, a lot of laughing."
The German-born photographer ran a market stall on Ridley Road one summer, two years ago, and while she ran it she traded postcards for stories.
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"When I first started taking pictures, people were really happy to talk and tell me about their family histories," she said. She discovered some of the market traders' families had been working there for four or five generations.
"I guess after a number of years I also felt like I'd like to give something back," she explained. "I don't only want to turn up with my camera and take pictures - what can I give in return? So I had this idea: why don't I run a market stall and on that market stall it could be a place where I record stories and memories?"
Tamara has been active in the Save Ridley Road campaign, which has fought to stop the eviction of traders from the Ridley Road shopping village where Tamara's studio is based.
Rainbow, the UK agent of Virgin Islands firm Larochette Real Estate, which owns the freehold, has submitted plans to turn the building into five luxury flats with offices and shops below. An earlier application submitted at the start of 2018 included 10 flats.
As a result, 20 existing stallholders and 60 artists in workshops upstairs are set to be evicted. Those who are still around are on new six-month licences that give Rainbow the right to evict them with 15 days' notice. They replaced "informal licences" that some believed offered them more security of tenure.
They will have the right to return, but there are still no provisions for where they will go while the building work happens.
Tamara, meanwhile, sourced historical pictures of the market for a fundraising exhibition at the beginning of June on Bradbury Street. The book also addresses increasing gentrification in the area.
"I want to make sure that the book comes out of that spirit of wanting to keep the market," said Tamara. "Returning it to a stall to sell: made from the market, about the market and sold at the market."
After consulting with traders they decided to sell the book for £25. "I want people who use the market and who work on the market to be able to buy the book," she said.
Anyone who contributes £25 to the crowdfunding campaign will also get a copy of the book.
The names of everyone photographed and anyone who contributed by giving money, stories or simply their time will be printed at the beginning, with the book set to be launched at the beginning of December.
Tamara grew up in a tiny village of about 600 people in the south of Germany. She moved to London straight after school and has lived most of that time in Hackney. She worked as an au pair at first then started taking pictures. Eventually she studied photography and began capturing Ridley Road on camera.
"The market seems really transient but actually it's been here for 150 years and people have been here for several generations," Tamara told the Gazette.
"Obviously it's not a solid building - it's just a street and it changes all the time. You can go here at different times of the day and it always looks different.
"I thought that was really interesting. That's what initially drew me to Ridley Road."
Trader Robert Evans shares his history with Ridley Road Market
Second-generation veg seller Robert Evans retired last year, but still works at the market on Saturdays. His story appears in Tamara's book.
"My father started when he came back from the Second World War," he tells her.
"His name was Jack Evans and he was in the Royal Navy during the convoys to Russia. If you went into the water, you had about two minutes to live. So he survived that. That's why I'm here.
"I started about 1960. In those days we used to sell a ton of potatoes a day. That's 40 days of potatoes today. That's a lot of potatoes. Because these modern-day people don't eat potatoes. They eat rice and takeaways. They got choices. And in those days you had to bring your own bags. We would have a queue of 10 people lining up for potatoes.
"Cabbage during the war was plentiful, but potatoes, because they take longer to grow, was more of a shortage. In the war, you had to buy cabbage to buy the potatoes - you couldn't just buy potatoes. It was all seasonal.
"In the 1950s and '60s you used to sell six vegetables: potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage and, say, cauliflower and, say, leeks or something like that. I was the first one down here to sell broccoli in about 1970."
If you would like to contribute to the crowdfunding campaign and help Tamara self-publish her book visit crowdfunder.co.uk/ridley-road-market-book.