Out of the traffic, a Hackney photog snaps a book

Christian Dorley-Brown (requests anonymity) @ his book launch in Hoxton London 070515 © DavidAltheer@gmail.com
Get off the bus! One from the book by Dorley-Brown, above (obscured at his request)
Get off the bus! One from the book by Dorley-Brown, top (obscured by request)

TRAFFIC-JAM VICTIMS is an odd subject for a photographic essay but East End photographer Christian “Chris” Dorley-Brown, above, somehow relates the topic to politics – with some wit.

In the 1980s when switching from black-and-white film was a big issue, he took the risk of venturing out with colour film for the first time.

Stalled: Dorley-Brown’s uneasy rider

On an assignment about the privatisation of Rolls-Royce (the defence company not its car-making brother) he became fascinated by the boredom, frustration and relaxation of people sitting in traffic.

Turning his twin-lens-reflex camera on the would-be travellers, dressed in the terrible styles of the time, he captured something of the mood of the UK as it slid into Thatcherism.

Perhaps Dorley-Brown was destined to the assignment he gave himself: he took his first picture of his father sitting in a Ford Cortina.

The boy was always around cars because Dad was a motor dealer and mechanic.

Decades after Dorley-Brown printed the traffic shots, they happened to come under the eye of Hoxton Mini Press.

The London Fields-based publisher decided they would slot into its East London Photo Stories series of books.

The result is Drivers In The 1980s, termed by one commentator “a humorous piece of retro… a slice of social history”.

Like nearly every photog, Dorley-Brown has gone digital. “Working with all those chemicals in a darkroom,” he said, “was really unpleasant… the acid, all those smells. I’ve no wish to return to that.”

David Altheer 090515

* Backstory: Hackney as you’ve never seen it; Changing Dalston

* Drivers In The 1980s, Hoxton Mini Press, 112 pages, £12.95

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained. Most photographs can be visually enlarged by pressing on them.

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