The sun shines through the squat red brick houses as locals and tourists scramble to get some shade. But the market doesn’t stop, the sound of clear cellophane paper rustling, the haggling of vendors in a distinct cockney twang and money exchanging hands continues.
Sundays for East Londoners usually mean a trip to the bustling Columbia Flower Market; it also says an early morning if the goal is to get the freshest of blooms for a reasonable price. But with the market smacked right in the middle of the east end, the early start is rewarded with a delicious brunch in the nearby eateries of Shoreditch or Broadway Market afterwards.
When we’re invited by Traverse to take part in a mobile photography project with Three UK and Samsung, there was no doubt where to go to put the new Samsung S9 to the test.
The short strip of Columbia Road that every Sunday transforms into an urban garden with quivering foliage, lush cascading canopy and neat rows of colourful potted blooms, is a joy to photograph.
But, using a DSLR – or even a mirrorless camera – while squeezing past other visitors is less than an ideal scenario. The narrow central lane of the market doesn’t allow for carefully timed photographs. And under the watchful eye of the stall owners, who cajole, holler and occasionally let out a saucy comment, taking photos in Columbia Flower Market is something that begs a sense of urgency. The ideal environment for mobile photography.
The Samsung S9’s selective focus is the perfect mode for macro shots of the flowers. Find an angle, tap the screen to focus, tap again, done. Repeat as much as you want across the different stalls.
The flower market at Columbia Road has been around for decades, and it has been a market of some sort here since the 1860s!
Today its evergreen appeal comes down to several factors. The Victorian street is home to several shops selling all manners of crafts and good coffee. The nearby Ezra Street feels like a Victorian movie set with its cobbles, lantern lamps, red brick façades and lively Sunday market. And of course, the infinite charm of the old school east end folk that has dealt at the market for generations.
This social aspect also makes the market a great place to street photography. And something that plays to the Samsung’s key elements, the ability to get the best photographs in virtually any condition.
Whether we’re snapping a quick, sneaky photo of the oyster vendor tucked away on Ezra Street or the orchid seller in the centre of the market, Samsung’s Auto mode adjusted seamlessly to the change in lighting.
Walking to the end of the market and further down the road, saw us reach Redchurch Street. Just behind Shoreditch Main Street, the atmosphere changes from the diverse social mix to a hipper, more urban crowd. And so does the style of photography.
With more time on our hands, we switch to the Pro mode on the Samsung and take our time to adjust exposure, ISO and aperture. We are looking to capture façades, street art and little overlooked beautiful details. Time was in our hands.
Heading out to the east end’s most famous market on a Sunday morning is an experience that everyone should have at least once. It enthrals, captivates and shows why the humble market is still a great social experience.
It’s a part of London that still feels very London. And you’ll leave, hopefully, with a handful of blooms and a phone full of great pictures.