Pin It
Dougie Wallace Caravaggio
"Caravaggio"Courtesy of Dougie Wallace/INSTITUTE

The riff-raff, rat packs and residents of London’s E2

Photographer Dougie Wallace documented Shoreditch for over 15 years, now he’s turning his art into activism

Dougie Wallace has spent 15 years photographing the highs, lows and everything in between, of East London’s now infamous Shoreditch. Last year, the Glasgow-born photographer’s social documentary was bound in book form, titled Shoreditch Wildlife, Wallace immortalised the riff-raff, rat packs and residents of E2.

“I used to take my camera out with me at night. People weren’t too bothered about the presence of a camera in the early hours. More recently I’ve been photographing the area during the day. The only time people get jumpy is sometimes in Brick Lane Market when I catch someone selling something that may be (or may not be) dubious,” the photographer tells us.

When Wallace began photographing, the area was on the brink of change. Now, home to coffee shops, organic stores, a cat café, a solid chunk of London’s creative arts offices, nightspots, renovated pubs, and of course, rising rents and gentrification by the bag full, tourists would be forgiven for neglecting its sinister history. Before the hotspot hit its stride, it was renowned as a bulging textile trade route, which, by the 20th century had turned into a derelict crime pocket, heaving with poverty and prostitution, before being almost flattened in World War II.

“The David and Goliath theme strikes a chord in that area; old East End can’t fight the invasion of the new, high rents, big corporations and high street brands” – Dougie Wallace

Turning this art into activism, Wallace is using images from the series to raise money for The Hepatitis C Trust. After witnessing a good friend go through the harrowing illness, he’s offering up limited edition prints for sale in a pop up shop set up by the charity, with 20 per cent of the proceeds going to the cause. One of the images on sale, titled “Caravaggio”, was shot on Sclater Street and is a telling contrast of the area’s ‘old’ and ‘new’ and plays on the Biblical narrative of David and Goliath. Wallace explains:

“The area is all getting redeveloped, especially that particular street. A lot of that market won’t be there in a couple of months. The image shows the stark mix of old East end and new with its hipsters and urban art. The old guy in his flat cap, braces and shiny trousers is oblivious to the street art. And the art takes the social commentary further with Cosmo Sarson’s selfie satire of Caravaggio’s "David and Goliath”. The David and Goliath theme strikes a chord in that area; old East End can’t fight the invasion of the new, high rents, big corporations and high street brands.”

The Hepatitis C Trust's pop up will play host to the sale until 6 April as well as two special events with Wallace, including a street photography workshop. For more information on the charity and its cause, click here. Alternatively, see more of Wallace's work here