Usually preoccupied with photographing and/or saving animals (check out his good deeds on his Twitter feed), Martin Usborne has taken a break to launch a series called Hoxton Minipress. Its first publication, I’ve Lived in East London for 85 ½ Years‘ focuses (perhaps unsurprisingly) on Joseph Markovitch who has lived in east London for 85 ½ years.
It’s an extended hardback version of a paperback Martin first produced in 2008, and at a time when east London is under the ever watchful eye of the global media during the Olympic games, it provides a hugely endearing, touching and ultimately humorous point of view of the East End from one of its longest-term residents.
As Usborne writes in the introduction about his first impression of Joseph: “My intentions were selfish, I thought he was amusing, I thought he was drunk” and readers might be forgiven for initially feeling the same. But Martin learned, and we learn that Joseph is a marginalised man with a unique take on the modern world.
From its cover you could be fooled into thinking it was just another selection of portraits of “old and interesting” people, but what’s inside is a fantastic photographic documentation of one of Hoxton’s most interesting residents, intercut with conversational quotes from Joseph which read like poetry.
Dealing with quintessential subject matter such as childhood, art and religion in a playful and comical way, Joseph unknowingly provides a thought-provoking commentary on the state of the world.
On the future he says: “Pavements will move, nurses will be robots and cars will get smaller and grow wings…I also have an idea that in about 50 years Hoxton Square will have a new market with amazing plastic rain-cover. So if it rains the potatoes won’t get wet. I don’t know what they will sell. Maybe bowler hats. Nothing much changes here in the end.”
“Pavements will move, nurses will be robots and cars will get smaller and grow wings.”
The book serves to show the side of Hoxton and east London that isn’t uber-trendy but is genuine and in many respects unaffected by east London’s ever-changing identity.
Although the text in the book is pretty profound, the photography is faultless and never tries too hard. Each photograph is as refreshing and poignant as the last and every page gives pause for reflection.
In all, the book as a whole is a moving experience starring an original ‘Eastender’ who at no point fails to make you think, laugh or just simply appreciate how first impressions aren’t gospel. Martin and Joseph have made a pretty delightful book and half the profits will go to the subject.
Martin plans to release a new book about east London every year under the Hoxton Minipress series with the first 100 sold including a print. Having set the bar so high, we can’t wait to see the next offering.