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Brick Lane in the 1980s & 2010

August 28, 2016

Photographs of Brick Lane from the 1980s and 2010.

Brick Lane 2010

Brick Lane 2010

Brick Lane c.1989

Brick Lane c.1989

Brick Lane 2010

Brick Lane 2010

Brick Lane c.1985

Brick Lane c.1985

Brick Lane 2010

Brick Lane 2010

Corner of Brick Lane & Sclater Street c.1985

Corner of Brick Lane & Sclater Street c.1985

Brick Lane 2010

Brick Lane 2010

Brick Lane c.1982

Brick Lane c.1982

Brick Lane 2010

Brick Lane 2010

Brick Lane c.1989

Brick Lane c.1989

Dhaka, Bangladesh 4th ‘Least Liveable City On Earth’ ?

August 27, 2016

Each year different league tables are constructed by western ‘analysts’ on how different countries are performing in relation to each other. The latest report by the The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking provides scores for lifestyle challenges in 140 cities. Jon Copestake, editor of the report, said: ‘The latest rankings paint a very somber picture. We are seeing greater instability around the world including unrest in the U.S., political disruption in Turkey and Thailand and geopolitical disputes in Eastern Europe and Asia.’ According to the report Dhaka sits 4th from the bottom of the table at 137th place. I am skeptical about the point of such reports. There always seems to be an implication that a low ranking country is inferior to the rest of the world. There is never any analysis of loaded trade arrangements and the roles of multi-national companies in the economies of poorer countries. There is no analysis of the causes of global inequality.

I’ve always found Dhaka a welcoming and civilized place of culture. The poorest struggle to survive and the rich have an easy time but to describe it as one of the ‘least liveable’ places on earth is, to say the least, simplistic and an injustice.

Dhaka Bangladsh c.1992

Dhaka Bangladsh c.1992

Photomontage: London & Dhaka 2010

Photomontage: London & Dhaka 2010

Dhaka Bangladesh 2009

Dhaka Bangladesh 2009

Dhaka c.1994

Dhaka c.1994

Dhaka Bangladesh 2008

Dhaka Bangladesh 2008

Dhaka Bangladesh c.1994

Dhaka Bangladesh c.1994

Dhaka Bangladesh 2008

Dhaka Bangladesh 2008

Dhaka Bangladesh 1992

Dhaka Bangladesh 1992

Photonontage: New York and Dhaka 2009

Photonontage: New York and Dhaka 2009

Dhaka, Bangladesh c.1992

Dhaka, Bangladesh c.1992

School outside Dhaka, Bangladesh 2008

School outside Dhaka, Bangladesh 2008

The students in the photograph (above) were planting, with scores of other pupils, hundreds of trees as part of their practical education in sustainability and flood prevention.

Dhaka, Bangladesh c.1992

Dhaka, Bangladesh c.1992

London & Dhaka Photomontage 2009

London & Dhaka Photomontage 2009

Dhaka, Bangladesh c. 1992

Dhaka, Bangladesh c. 1992

Collage From Photographs

August 26, 2016

I miss printing photographs in the darkroom. The second bedroom in my Tower block flat in Whitechapel doubled as a darkroom for many years. Once the red light and music was switched on I was in photography heaven. The nearest I get sensually to the darkroom experience is through creating collages using images from my archive. I’ve always been interested in posters, graffiti and art found on walls in cities around the world; the images I’ve photographed on the wall are often the basis for the start of a collage. Once I’ve selected an image I will print it onto card using a black & white laser jet printer. Next I will add some acrylic paint and ink and then tear an image from one of my published photography books. Sometimes I will use a torn ‘test strip’ from my dark room days; fortunately I kept many test strips. Once I’ve glued the image to the card I will then scan the completed collage ready for printing as a limited edition print.

A wall in Whitechapel East London 2016

A wall in Whitechapel East London 2016

The finished collage 2016

The finished collage 2016

A man sitting next to a wall in Athens 2005

A man sitting next to a wall in Athens 2005

The finished collage 2016

The finished collage 2016

A wall in Whitechapel East London 2009

A wall in Whitechapel East London 2009

The finished collage 2016

The finished collage 2016

Posters on the wall in Stepney East London 2009

Posters on the wall in Stepney East London 2009

The finished collage 2016

The finished collage 2016

A wall in Whitechapel East London 2007

A wall in Whitechapel East London 2007

A wall in Whitechapel East London 2007

The finished collage 2016

A wall in Brick Lane East London 2007

A wall in Brick Lane East London 2007

The finished collage 2016

The finished collage 2016

A metal gate off Brick Lane East London 2007

A metal gate off Brick Lane East London 2007

The finished collage 2016

The finished collage 2016

A window in Budapest 2006

A window in Budapest 2006

The finished collage 2016

The finished collage 2016

A playground Wall in Polar East London 2006

A playground Wall in Poplar East London 2006

The finished collage 2016

The finished collage 2016

Melaka In Malaysia

August 25, 2016

I’ve visited Melaka many times. These photographs were taken earlier this year.

In 2008 UNESCO listed Melaka as a world heritage site. Melaka was founded around 1400 by a former prince from Sumatra (who ended up in Malacca during an escape attempt in that area). Malacca turned out to have a very good strategic position, and not long after the foundation the influx of merchant ships from India and China started. During that time Malacca grew into one of the major ports in South-East Asia today. In 1511 the Portuguese traders first set foot on the Melakan soil. In 1641 the Portuguese gave up their power struggle (and war) with the Dutch and from that time onwards Melaka was under Dutch reign. Only a few years later, the English gained control over the area (after the Netherlands traded this region with the English for parts of Indonesia). The British rule lasted until 1957, when Malaysia was formed and Melaka continued as a semi autonomous province.

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Melaka 2016

Brick Lane: Recent Additions To The Archive

August 24, 2016

Here are some more photographs (recently digitised) from Brick Lane in the early 1980s. I’ve mixed them with more recent shots.

Brick Lane c.1985

Brick Lane c.1985

Brick Lane c.1998

Brick Lane c.1998

Brick Lane c.1985

Brick Lane c.1985

Brick Lane c.1998

Brick Lane c.1998

Brick Lane c.1991

Brick Lane c.1991

Brick Lane Mosque 2005

Brick Lane Mosque 2005

Brick Lane c.1985

Brick Lane c.1985

Brick Lane 2003

Brick Lane protest against the war in Iraq 2003

Brick Lane c.1983

Brick Lane c.1983

Brick Lane 2005

Brick Lane 2005

Brick Lane On A Tripod

August 23, 2016

Most of my street photography is the result of a brief encounter between myself and the subject as we move past each other. Very occasionally I will use a tripod with the camera trained to one spot on the street. Usually this is done to create a series of images for insertion into a film or it might be to facilitate long exposures for night time photography. Exceptionally, the photographs below were taken in 1999 for a collage of photographs on Brick Lane.

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Gilbert & George on Brick Lane 1999

Gilbert & George on Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Brick Lane 1999

Colin O’Brien 1940 – 2016

August 22, 2016

I was introduced to Colin O’Brien by the author of the ‘Spitalfields Life’ blog in 2011. I had never heard of him before but ‘The Gentle Author’ told me he was excited by Colin’s photographs. In the years that followed I became a devoted fan of his work. Colin was championed by ‘Spitalfields Life’ and he became a regular contributor to the blog. He started taking photographs in his early childhood in Clerkenwell and continued to document London life until his sudden death a few days ago.

Raymond Scallionne and Razi Tuffano in Hatton Garden in 1948, one of the first pictures taken by Colin O’Brien when he was eight years old.

Raymond Scallionne and Razi Tuffano in Hatton Garden in 1948, one of the first pictures taken by Colin O’Brien when he was eight years old.

Members of the Leinweber family playing darts at the Metropolitan Tavern, Clerkenwell Rd, 1954.

Colin was very modest about his work. He was a self taught photographer who loved the environment he lived in and was driven to capture it on film. For decades he diligently recorded the world around him and never sought any recognition. He was passionate about the world around him and was able to convey that passion in his photographs.

The photograph above was taken a year after I was born. It is extraordinary for a number of reasons. Technically flawless it is also perfectly framed. The lighting reminds me of the black and white late 1930s films I used to watch on TV as a child. However, Colin didn’t have a clever group of lighting technicians at his disposal; he makes effortless use of available light. The darts match evokes for me memories of  the pub life I experienced as a child. Many photographers would automatically shy away from pressing the shutter at the angle Colin has chosen. They would seek to avoid the globes of light that sprinkle across the frame. Not Colin. He relishes the challenge and in so doing introduces an additional dreamlike surreal quality to the photograph.

The photograph below was taken in Clerkenwell Road in the 1950s. Both subjects are aware of Colin’s presence. At an early age he was learning the art of street photography and it seems he was generally comfortable with taking photographs openly when he was close to his subjects. I would imagine that at this stage people in his neighbourhood were used to seeing him walk around with his camera.

Colin’s mother puts tea in the teapot, in the scullery at Victoria Dwellings, nineteen fifties (below). This photograph reminds me of a shot from a documentary film of working class life made by the Crown Film Unit. However it is more relaxed than anything I have ever seen in a, usually staged, film of that period. Colin was effortlessly and authentically recording the rituals of working class life in a way that went far beyond the usually patronising images of the period.Colin2

Linda Leinweber takes a nap, 117 Victoria Dwellings, nineteen fifties (below).Colin3

Colin’s father eats breakfast before work at the Mount Pleasant Sorting Office (below). Note that Colin resists the temptation to move his father around the table to the left in order to avoid the light gushing in from the window. He records the scene as it is and captures the essence of his father’s preparation for the hard days work ahead. I can imagine his father (who must have been very supportive of his son’s photographic inclinations) telling him to hurry up and take the shot. We are left with an affectionate portrait and a magnificent still life on the table.Colin4

Jimmy Wragg and Bernard Roth jumping on a bomb site in Clerkenwell, late fifties (below). Colin’s mates were obviously at ease with his camera; consequently he was able to eloquently record teenage life in the fifties from the ‘inside’. Has Colin asked Jimmy and Bernard to perform in front of the camera or has he captured a spontaneous moment in time? It doesn’t really matter as the result is magnificent.Colin5

Accident at the junction of Clerkenwell Rd and Farringdon Rd, 1957 (below). Colin clearly had a natural curiosity about the world from an early age. I can imagine him grabbing his camera as soon as he heard the crash outside his flat window. He must have been fascinated by the street from an early age and he no doubt studied life outside his window assiduously.Colin6

Mrs Leinweber divides the Shepherd’s Pie among her family, Victoria Dwellings, 1959 (below). This photograph reminds me of Vermeer’s painting ‘The Milkmaid’. What more can I say?

'Milkmaid' by Vermeer

‘Milkmaid’ by Vermeer

Colin7

Colin’s mother outside her door, 99 Victoria Dwellings, nineteen fifties (below). I reckon that it might have been with some reluctance that Colin’s mum posed for this photograph outside the family home. Colin obviously had a composition in mind before she acceded to his request. Perfectly composed all eyes lead to his mum.Colin8

Boy at Woolworths, Exmouth Market, 1954 (below). Colin had an innate ability to discover what most of us overlook. Amid all the hubbub of the store Colin draws our attention to the boys detached moment of fascination with the display in front of him.Colin9

I will miss Colin’s photographs in ‘Spitalfields Life’. His unexpected death has shocked us all. Some time ago Hazuan Hashim and myself had the good fortune to have Colin and his delightful partner Janet around for dinner. Somewhat in awe of his photography I remember being a little nervous about the occasion. I needn’t have been. Colin was an amusing, unpretentious and self deprecating man. He was excellent company and would only talk about himself with some reluctance. He loved working with the Gentle Author on Spitalfields Life and produced many wonderful photographs in recent years. Thankfully he received recognition for his lifetime of photography in his later years. He leaves behind an astonishing and unique legacy of photographs from the 1950s to the present day. His book London Life encapsulates much of this legacy.

Colin at the launch of his book 'London Life' in 2015

Colin at the launch of his book ‘London Life’ in 2015

Thanks to both Colin and Janet for generously sponsoring my book Brick Lane. We will all miss you Colin and thanks for taking the picture of Hazuan and myself (below) at Bob Mazzer’s exhibition opening in 2014; we will treasure it.

You can find more of Colin’s photographs at Spitalfields Life

ColinPic