Brick Lane
Brick Lane. Photography by Tom Hunter

Photography by Tom Hunter

The sight of a factory chimney being blown up together with a billboard that reads, The best future for Britain

Photography by Mike Seaborne

Broadgate, 1986
Broadgate, 1986, under construction

Photography by Brian Griffin

E.1 Festival steel band performers
E.1, Festival steel band performers

Photography by Diana Bush

East End Archive exhibition

An exhibition of photography of London's East End in the 1970s and 1980s will be held at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives.

Date: 12 August 2021

Previously unpublished images of London's East End taken by leading documentary photographers in the 1970s and 80s will exhibited at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives. The exhibition will open on 30 September 2021.

The exhibition has evolved from a special collaborative box-set publication between the School of Art, Architecture and Design, London Metropolitan University and Café Royal Books who share a similar ethos regarding the cultural importance of the preservation and dissemination of British Documentary Photography. Released in March 2020 during the first covid-19 lockdown, the set comprises of four books made for what was then The East End Archive at The Cass.
Each book represents work made in London’s East End during the 1970s and 1980s by the renowned photographers Tom Hunter, Brian Griffin, Diane Bush and Mike Seaborne who are joined for the Tower Hamlets exhibition by the photographer Syd Shelton. The majority of this work has never been published before with the exception of Brian Griffin’s, for which it is the first time within a documentary context. Each book has been edited specifically for the box-set publication, with both box-set and individual publications selling out quickly.
Each photographer has taken a distinctive and personal approach to the area: Tom Hunter’s Down the Lane dates from a time, now disappeared and prior to his professional career, when he had a stall at Brick Lane Market and photographed the passers-by; Diane Bush’s work in the old East End was made whilst working with EXIT, Britain’s first photography collective, which believed in the power of photography to contribute to positive social change; Mike Seaborne’s work at London’s Docklands represents huge social and economic changes in the area and is defined by a vanished post-industrial landscape; and a decade later in the 1980s, Brian Griffin’s work also comments on massive economic shifts but this time in the City of London where borders were re-drawn as the City spread with the deregulation of the financial markets. Syd Shelton is a British photographer who documented the Rock Against Racism movement. His work is held in the collections of Tate and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

About The East End Archive:

The East End Archive is an online and digital photographic resource which develops collaborative ventures with other community groups, public bodies and research projects that have a common interest. The Archive collects the work of photographers whose practice is concerned with the East End of London and its diaspora, where the East End is understood as an ever-changing frontier within the urban sprawl that is part imagined and part tangible. The Archive holds only "bodies of work" in order to understand more fully the working methodology of the photographers, and to give context to the work. In fact, this is an archive for the future, which brings together not only historic bodies of work but contemporary collections from photographers currently working in the field in order to record current rather than retrospective ideologies. The work collected ranges from traditional documentary to works of the imagination in order to reflect the East End- a place where dreams, dissent and transformation co-exist. 

About Café Royal Books:

Café Royal Books is a publisher of limited edition photographic titles focussing on British documentary photography. Founded by Craig Atkinson in 2005, Café Royal Books aims to create a focussed and complete archive of British documentary photography. Publishing roughly 70 titles each year with a small edition 'archive box' every 100th title. These archive boxes are aimed at major collections, libraries and museums — helping to increase the visibility of the work and making the books publicly accessible for as long as possible. Collectors are wide and varied but include, MoMA NY, Harvard University, Oxford University, Cambridge University, The British Library, The Hyman Collection, Martin Parr Foundation, TATE, V&A / National Art Library. Publications are affordable, democratic, utilitarian and useful, without fuss or decoration, the images, history and the cultural archive are the focus.

About Tower Hamlets Archives:

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives holds outstanding and unique resources on the history of London’s world famous East End. It covers the London Borough of Tower Hamlets which was created from the former Metropolitan Boroughs of Bethnal Green, Poplar and Stepney.

Michael Upton, who represents the East End Archive on the University Special Collections and Archives Strategy Committee said, "It is wonderful that these books have proven so popular, and that we finally get a chance to celebrate their publication with this exciting exhibition of work by leading photographers which was delayed due to the pandemic. We are discussing plans for the next exciting developments with The East End Archive with Susan Andrews, Emeritus Reader who leads the project and research colleagues in the University."


The East End Archive

30 September 2021 - January 2022 (TBC)

Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives
277 Bancroft Road
E1 4DQ

For directions, transport and up to date opening times see the visitor information page 

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