Pavement fly-pitchers caught on Colin O’Brien’s camera go on show in Spitalfields

12:00 26 July 2012

A fly pitcher snapped by Colin O

A fly pitcher snapped by Colin O'Brien

Colin O'Brien - free promo

A remarkable exhibition of photographs of street life from 1948 to the present day has its preview in London’s East End this-evening.

Photographer Colin O’Brien has been snapping people on the streets ever since he was an eight-year-old kid with a camera living in tenement buildings in Clerkenwell.

He spent a month recently shooting fly-pitchers who ply their age-old pavement trade around Bethnal Green and Shoreditch who he found are forever pushed on by market inspectors because they’re unlicensed.

The pedlars caught on Colin’s camera are included in his one-man exhibition previewed tonight (Thurs) in the crypt of Spitalfields Church.

Colin, now in his 70s living in Hackney, is a regular contributor to the ‘Spitalfields Life’ daily website.

The website’s anonymous ‘Gentle Author’ editor told the Advertiser: “The fly-pitchers have been pushed together on a narrow strip of pavement in Bethnal Green Road.

“They suffer the heavy hands of market inspectors, causing them to pick up their things and flee—only to return later and do a little more trading before the next purge happens. It’s a game of ‘cat and mouse’.”

He was with O’Brien among the pitchers and peddlers getting the pictures, which have been included in Colin’s lifetime collection of inproptu snaps.

The Gentle Author adds: “The argument used is that fly-pitchers are unlicensed and block the pavement.

“Some have been coming to Brick Lane for their entire lives in a culture of Sunday pavement trading which has been continuous on this corner of the East End for centuries. If they’re blocking the pavement today, it’s because they’ve been herded into this narrow space against their will.”

Colin O’Brien’s ‘Commonplace’ exhibition in the crypt of Christ Church in Commercial Street, Spitalfields, runs until August 26, open Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays 1-6pm. He talks about his work this Sunday at 2pm.

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