If you missed David Bailey’s East End photography exhibition, part of the Create London festival in Newham during the Olympic Games last year, here’s your chance to see some of the snaps on show in Walthamstow.
The William Morris Gallery hosts the new display, and this one-room exhibition focuses on Bailey’s portraits of London’s East End from the 1960s. Featuring both colour and black-and-white images, the show includes portraits taken in old clubs and local pubs, streetscapes, bombed-out buildings and more personal shots. Brick Lane features heavily, but is almost unrecognisable; in contrast, Christ Church Spitalfields stands out in some of the scenes, a testament to certain timeless elements of the area.
The peculiar East End personalities captured by Bailey spring from their frames: a portrait of the Kray twins messing around with a pet snake is literally larger than life; the oddly angled image of two girls enjoying a night out rings with a strange but familiar energy. Suddenly a familiar face: a portrait of Prince Charles as a child, looking solemn, next to a tiny Princess Anne who’s screaming with laughter. So that’s how those Kray’s chose to decorate the walls of their club. Elsewhere, it’s clear Bailey has documented a time long past: the stark blacks and whites of two big old fashioned prams outside monochrome terraced houses reek of another era.
Perhaps it was the new context of the images, sitting in the house of one of the UK’s greatest ever textile designers, but we couldn’t help noticing the way Bailey’s unforgiving lens captures cloth and texture in his portraits. Shiny, ragged, scratchy clothing, broken bricks, splintering wood, stubbled faces. These images are witty, hard, true, cutting. Perhaps like the times and streets they illustrate.