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Whitechapel, 1972. Photo: Ian Berry, Magnum.

Life Happens in the Streets 1

Elīna Ruka Two photo exhibits devoted to street photography will be on view in London through September 4: London Street Photography (at the Museum of London) and Ian Berry: This is Whitechapel (at the Whitechapel Gallery).

Street photography is a vast, living genre of photography. It documents events, fellow citizens, and changes in the city, capturing a moment and creating thematic stories. Street photography also reflects the relationships between people, photographs, and the photographer, as well as their mutual interactions.

The Museum of London has created a historic exhibition that, in the form of two hundred photographs, leads you on a unique walking tour through the streets of London over the course of more than a century, unveiling its character and dynamism, and at the same time reflecting the development of photography. The exhibition material is divided into five chronological sections. The first depicts the beginning state of street photography, from 1860 through 1889. The first successful attempts to capture the hustle and bustle of everyday life in London are revealed in sepia tones, for instance, in the photographs of Valentine Blanchard (1831–1901). At the same time, John Thomson (1837-1921) conducted an important survey of the poorest London residents, published in the album Street Life in London in 1877.

The second part of the exhibit turns to the time period between 1890 and 1929, which the museum calls “London in Motion.” The most noteworthy representative of this stage was Paul Martin (1864–1944), who, disguising his photo camera as a postal package, captured genuine images that are full of life. The years 1930-1945 were a period of observation: calmer and more restrained, allowing the city and its people simply to be. Wolf Suschitzky (1912) arrived in London in 1935 and began a long-term personal project, photographing Charing Cross Road both day and night.

The time period from 1946 through 1979 is called “Capturing the Streets.” At that time, Rodger Mayne (1929) spent so much time on the streets of London, always with a camera at the ready, that he become familiar figure to almost everybody. Henry Grant (1907–2004) was a photojournalist who showed a deep interest in ordinary people. And beginning in the 1970s, Paul Trevor photographed London’s East End, mostly on Brick Lane, almost every day.

The final stage, from 1980 to the present day, reflects the introduction of color photography.