Q&A: Andrew Holligan on his new book, Dalston in the 80s

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Now known as a hip place to be, Dalston was then a cheap place to live ill-served by public transport. While living in the neighbourhood, Andrew Holligan shot the people he came across with a 1950s Rolleiflex, creating an archive of images which has now been published as a book.
BJP: Why did you move to Dalston?
AH: I moved there because a friend had offered me his flat while he was away. A lot of friends were moving to East London in the 80s because it was cheaper than elsewhere in central London. There were also a lot of empty commercial/light industrial buildings available for studios. I then spent a year in Australia, then moved back into a live/work space near London Fields, Hackney.
BJP: Had you known anything about it before?
AH: I had never been to Dalston before and knew nothing about the place, even though I had spent some of my childhood in Islington. I had been living in New York City for three years prior to moving to Dalston.
BJP: Were you working over the two years you were living in Dalston?
AH: I was doing some fashion and editorial photography but not enough to sustain myself. I would do building work to supplement my income.
BJP: How often did you take pictures for yourself there?
AH: I carried a camera around with me as much as possible – I have always taken photographs for myself, it is why I took up photography. Dalston in the 80s is the result of it.
BJP: Approximately how many images did you amass?
AH: I have never counted how many photos I took in Dalston. In comparison to today’s digital output, it was a very small amount, partly because of the expense, but more significantly because ‘street photography’ to me is about capturing a moment then moving on. I never spent time arranging or orchestrating a shot. Most of the images in the book are single shots. The editing was a collaboration with Hoxton Mini Press.
BJP: The images in Dalston in the 80s have some groupings eg sequences of muscle men, or of people on the bus. How did you structure the book?
AH: It is nearly chronological – the bulk of the images were taken between 1984-86, then a few were taken between 1987-89 when I returned from Australia. The sequencing, like the editing, was a collaboration with Hoxton Mini Press.
BJP: I really like the personal texts that run throughout the book – why did you include them?
AH: Martin Usborne at Hoxton Mini Press was very keen for me to write something personal as an alternative to a formal style of introduction, because my work had a more casual feel to it, like a journal.
BJP: How did the book project come about? 
AH: I had heard about Hoxton Mini Press, and knew they were interested in anything ‘East London’, so I submitted my work and they liked it.
BJP: What do you think about Dalston now? Are you surprised to see how it’s turned out?
AH: I lived in Hackney until 2001 then moved out to live in the countryside with my family. I revisited Dalston when this Hoxton Mini Press project came about to see how it had changed, having heard a lot about the changing face of Dalston. Daytime Dalston didn’t seem that very different considering the media obsession with hipsters. I think cities are constantly in flux and it is just another example of change that can be looked upon in either a positive or a negative light.
Dalston in the 80s is published by Hoxton Mini Press, priced £14.95. Andrew Holligan

From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
From the book Dalston in the 80s © Andrew Holligan
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy