In Your Face: Paul Trevor’s extreme close-ups illustrate the 1980s class divide

Snapped in the City of London and neighbouring Brick Lane, the photographer’s new book of black-and-white close-up shots is a reminder of the stark contrasts of Thatcherite Britiain

Brick Lane, 1983

Paul Trevor has been documenting the East End of London for over two decades now. After picking up a camera at the age of 25, he decided to quit his job as an accountant and take up the practice full time.

Motivated by a keen social impulse, the photographer’s images of life in the East End have since been widely published in books and magazines. “It was very much a personal project – a personal visual record – driven by my curiosity, since making photos is a way of questioning the world and yourself at the same time,” he tells CR.

The City, 1989

Following on from his previous collaboration with indie publisher Hoxton Mini Press, Once Upon a Time in Brick Lane, Trevor’s new photo book is designed to capture Britain’s perennial social divide.

Titled In Your Face, the book features images taken between 1977 and 1992, but mostly during the height of the highly divisive Thatcher era in the 1980s.

Brick Lane, 1977

“The project was provoked by two things: Thatcherism’s polarised debate on market forces versus community values, and my long-time neglect of the 50mm lens. Could I tackle the first by using the second?” he says.

Featuring black-and-white close-ups made spontaneously, the images show the stark contrast between the people who frequented the City and Brick Lane during this period, despite the fact that these areas are just a stone’s throw from each another.

The City, 1989

The intensely intimate photos were the result of Trevor’s experiments using a 35mm film camera, a standard 50mm lens and whatever light was available to him at the time.

“Shooting-wise, In Your Face was an experimental departure from what I’d done before and what I did afterwards. It required me to photograph strangers very close-up without engaging with them. It meant working surreptitiously,” he says.

“I found this approach created a tension in the photos between physical intimacy and emotional detachment. I was fascinated by the results – objective images that were subjective at the same time.”

In Your Face is published by Hoxton Mini Press;