Columbia Road


I spent another lovely afternoon wandering around with my camera in hand, honing my street photography skills. Every Sunday, Columbia Road (just north of Brick Lane), becomes engulfed by a sea of flowers as the weekly market arrives. For such a narrow street, it really is amazing how many vans, stalls, tables and flowers can squeeze in between the houses and shop fronts, especially alongside the tables and racks full of stock which are already overflowing from every shop door. And then the crowds arrive.

For anyone else who feels like wandering with camera through Columbia street, a word of advice – don’t bother even trying to walk down the centre of the street with everyone else. You’ll only hit people in the face with your lens. Instead, duck behind the stalls where it’s considerably quieter, and you have a better view of everyone.

plant chat homeless man talking men 1 man child pink coat

East London is definitely my favourite part of the city for some street photography. It is the most vibrant, edgy, artsy, eccentric and welcoming part of the city. There is always something going on to draw people out of their homes, and therefore into the roaming eye of my camera. And unlike many places, here very few people seem to care about my walking around with a camera. No one questions it, or even notices, because this is the land of the hipsters with their cutesy vintage polaroids and 35mm rolls tucked in the front pockets of their plaid shirts. It’s pretty much expected to document East London. Of course, that also means that Brick Lane street photography has become something of a stereotype…

white hair sitting friends market view 2 market view 1

I strongly recommend, however, that everyone takes a Sunday to wander along Columbia Road at some point in their life. Stock up on antihistamines if you wish. The air is thick with the scent of roses, tulips, orchids, lilies, herbs. Men adorn their impressive beards with daisies while women perch on curb sides with flowers tucked behind their ears, chatting in threes with rainbow nails and thick fur coats. The area is a mismatched mix; the hub of energy which is the floral street itself and the still residencies which surround it. Quirky looking pubs and cafes and hybrids of the two practically enforce a bow-tie-and-top-know dress code. It’s bizarre and wonderful all at once.

vendor2 _MG_4535 woman through plastic old man  child dreadlocks

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All photography by Emma Styles.

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