A new exhibition in the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre, London, allows viewers to appreciate the beauty and history of East Londoners going about their daily life, in black and white photograph, in unconventional and often candid settings.
A young Jewish girl stands in a rainy street in Whitechapel in April 1954. Too young to understand the full horrors of the Holocaust, which may have brought her family to Britain a few years earlier, she goes about her daily life. In another scene, a man clad in a heavy coat and hat sits astride a gramophone player on wheels in a street market – possibly for sale, or to entertain the passers-by. Forming part of a series, these photographs – some of which have never been seen in public before – are on display at Westfield Stratford City shopping mall in an exhibition, EAST, which celebrates the spirit of East London over the past 100 years.
The pictures, from the Getty Images archive, at the shopping centre – itself a recent addition to the area – capture scenes of both the young and old. In one, an elderly rabbi reads from a religious book – while, in another, two pupils from the Jewish school in Redman Road pore over a study text.
Each piece at the EAST exhibition entices the viewer into the picture, allowing them to appreciate the beauty and history of East Londoners going about their daily life. The exceptional photography of subjects in unconventional or candid settings and brilliant use of black and white photography, keep the audience captivated in every aspect of the shot.
Key works on display, which are also available for purchase, include images from the legendary Picture Post magazine, The Pool of London, and Whitechapel’s Jews and Cockneys’ Own Party. An exceptional piece includes a 1912 image of barefoot children waiting in Salmon’s Lane for a free meal. Getty Images’ Hulton Archive printed this from the original glass plate, despite it being damaged, to give a fascinating illustration of East London exactly 100 years ago. The images were collated from the archival collections in online imagery, print files and contact sheets. Getty Images darkrooms worked from original glass plate negatives through to contemporary film, hand printing and hand retouching each print.
The East End has a rich cosmopolitan history, welcoming many waves of immigrants. Many Ashkenazi Jews, from Eastern Europe, had fled to the West in the late 19th century following persecution in Tsarist Russia. Many Jews landing in England actually intended to go to America, but about 120,000 stayed in this country. Again attracted by the area’s reputation as a place for cheap living, and by the fact that it had been home to a Jewish population in previous centuries, large numbers settled in Spitalfields, often finding work in the ‘rag trade’. By 1900 Jews formed around 95 per cent of the population in the Wentworth Street district of Spitalfields. Jews had also settled around Whitechapel, Aldgate and Mile End. From 1933-39, another wave of immigrants arrived from Central Europe to escape the clutches of the Nazis. Among them were many children, via the Kindertransport child refugee network, who would never see their parents again.
During the post-war years, the Jewish community thrived in the area – with synagogues, schools, schmutter (clothes) shops and bagel bakeries galore. But towards the end of the 20th century, many had moved to the capital’s leafier suburbs, such as Barnet, Golders Green and Hendon in north-west London or further east towards Essex. With their departure, the East End would undergo another cultural shift, this time towards Bengali Muslims. However, the East End is still home to many architectural buildings, which represent the history of Jewish London.
A number of synagogues are still standing although some have now been converted and used for other purposes. There are also cemeteries and Brick Lane is still home to two of London’s best Jewish bagel shops.
Gallery opening times:
Admission is FREE.
Find Getty Images Gallery on The Street, opposite Bumpkin.EAST, at Westfield Stratford City, Stratford, East London, runs until April 1.
Information for this article was taken from Westfield.