From tooth gems to flat caps, Arthur Comely captures the fashion of London’s car boot sale community
From old friends to eccentric figures and fashion lovers, the photographer captures a beautiful portrayal of a close-knit London community.
- Olivia Hingley
- 10 May 2023
It’s the smaller details of people’s personal style that have always interested the photographer Arthur Comley. The gems on their teeth, how they’ve rolled up their jeans, or even the way they’ve laced up their trainers. Arthur is attracted to such unique signifiers of style, so it made sense for him to capture a place with a unique community and culture – one where people tended toward strong visual expression. Soon, he found himself immersed within the eclectic, varied world of South East London’s boot sales, now the subject of his upcoming zine £1 Entry.
The subject matter perhaps wasn’t entirely unexpected for the photographer, as he's been attending car boot fairs since childhood. “I always remember the knock-off bootlegs and buying a BB gun when I probably shouldn’t have had one,” he recalls. “And later, when I used to live in Peckham everyone would go and you’d bump into people on a hungover Sunday.” The cherry on top, however, was the boot sale that takes place opposite Arthur’s studio every weekend, providing him with ample opportunity and inspiration.
Growing up in South East London, Arthur later went on to study commercial photography at Arts University Bournemouth. He got his first proper insight into the industry by chance, after he was cast by Jamie Hawkesworth to model for a story for Arena Homme. “I was obsessed with his work at the time”, Arthur adds. He then went on to model for the likes of Campbell Addy, Tim Walker, Jurgen Teller, Tom Johnson and Nadia Lee Cohen. “It was a massive learning curve to be able to see behind the camera and look at what all these photographers did, to see how a set worked and what went into each shoot” Arthur reflects. From there, Arthur went on to assist in photo studios across London, before beginning his own practice.
Primarily, £1 Entry involved approaching people who stood out to Arthur at the boot sales – not an easy task, but one that he says he acclimated to quickly. “I think with every project you have to immerse yourself, and quickly strangers become people you see every weekend,” Arthur outlines. One such person was Gerald, a figure who pops up a few times throughout the zine, in a stand out image he smiles down the lens of the camera, a bright red flat cap on his head and in a suave fur collared leather jacket. A regular at the boot sales, Arthur says he’s “always the best-dressed person with the best clothes going”.
While many of the photos are candid shots of the boot sale attendees, half of the project also involved Arthur buying a load of clothes, and then styling people he had “cast”. Although styled and planned, keeping the location to the car boot kept these images “a lot more natural and authentic”, Arthur says.
Reflecting on the series as a whole, there’s one image that particularly resonates with Arthur, both for its palpable warmth, and the way it represents the sentiment of the whole series. In the image three women are huddled together, their closeness evident upon even a preliminary glance. But, as Arthur explains, the subjects in fact hadn’t seen each other for years. “I’d taken a picture of one of them before, and then later on they all came over – they hadn’t seen each other since primary school,” Arthur says. “It felt like a really authentic moment to catch.” It's this coming together of people – old friends, eccentric figures and fashion lovers – that really encapsulates the £1 Entry, a beautiful portrayal of a close-knit London community where you may not initially expect it.
£1 Entry will launch at London’s Guest Editions on 1 June and is published with Quality of Life.
GalleryArthur Comely: £1 Entry (Copyright © Arthur Comely, 2023)
Arthur Comely: £1 Entry (Copyright © Arthur Comely, 2023)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.