Joseph Markovitch was born right by Old Street roundabout on the very first day of 1927. He spent the next 86½ years walking, eating, working and living in east London. Two years after he had last shuffled around Hoxton Square, I was walking down Redchurch Street and stumbled across his story.
Put together by Martin Usborne, who spotted Joseph standing in Hoxton Square in 2007, this small hardback book is a collection of photographs and thoughts. Musings on fashion, film, health, the future, technology and art, all from one old Londoner who had seen his home through 86½ years of change. He is amusing, witty and pensive, with comments ranging from "I would have liked to have had a girlfriend but its OK. I've seen the horse and cart, I've seen the camera invented, I've seen the projector" to "...you know what I'd like to be? I'd like to be a ballet dancer. That would be my dream."
Each page and each photograph is a small tale in itself. The old man, clutching his plastic bag against a backdrop of graffiti, dwarfed by the Olympic stadium, alone and shrinking in the midst of a lively pub. Our world seems too bright, too fast for Joseph and yet this Londoners thoughts and voice ring loudly from each sentence.
For a different look at east London, or as Martin says, to see the cabinet makers and not the cocktail bars, this little book is a delight to flick through and return to. Its ending is simultaneously sad and quietly thoughtful, “nothing much changes around here in the end.”
I’ve Lived in East London for 86½ Years is the first book in the East London Photo Stories, which currently includes eight other titles. It retails for £12.95.