The London borough of Whitechapel is known for its Victorian murders, general poverty, and immigrant population. Like any place in a thriving metropolitan area, it has changed over the centuries. Populations have shifted, and economics have changed. Nowadays, according to the latest census data, the population is half-Asian, mostly Bangladeshis.
I went because of the market. I read a little blurb about it in Time Out: London and decided to check out. Armed with my camera and tennis shoes, I walked out of Whitechapel Station and into the bright sunlight. What I encountered was such a sharp contrast to the hyper posh-ness of South Kensington that it took me a moment to adjust.
The place was gritty and urban. Construction pylons ate up half the street. Graffiti adorned normally sparse corners. Some store windows were boarded-up. Others boasted prices with handwritten signs.
The market that I had heard about ran along a big chunk of Whitechapel Road. When I got there at 11 am on a Friday morning, it was far from peak business hours. Some were still setting up, but there were enough stalls open to give me an impression of what it was normally like.
Numerous places sold cheap headscarves (6 for £10) and pieces of Southeast Asian clothing. Others sold luggage bundles and wallets. A few sold shoes. A couple produce. Even though the market was still getting into the swing of things, many people were out shopping, mostly Muslim women. I could tell they were Muslim because they practiced various degrees of veiling: from a causal hijab to a full-body burqa. Men were out in force too, chatting in nearby fried chicken shops or surveying their stalls.
After a few moments to get my bearings, I began to walk around and take photos. What I found most fascinating about Whitechapel as I was exploring was not the immigrant population, but the little pockets of gentrification. With both the Royal London Hospital and housing for University of London nearby, students and professionals directly mixed in with the immigrants. As a result there were seemingly random indie coffee bars and cafes. I even spotted what looked like a gastropub and a cronut-selling bakery. These were amongst not only the market but also small stores selling everything from cheap household goods to Islamic literature.
It was strange yet intriguing. I attempted to capture this urban, eclectic Whitechapel in my photographs.