East London Portfolio: East End

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“My father was a docker – everyone worked in the docks, did a bit of boxing or they were villains. My dad went to sea when he was thirteen, he did bare-knuckle boxing, he knew how to rig a ship from top to bottom, and he sold booze in the states during prohibition. I used to get up at five in the morning to talk to him before he went to work and he told me stories, that was my education. People say life was hard in the East End, but I found the living was easy and I loved it.”

With admirable self-assurance, John left school at fifteen and informed West Ham Labour Exchange of his chosen career. They sent him up to the McCann-Erickson advertising agency in the West End where he immediately acquired employment in the photographic department. Then, at seventeen years old, John bravely travelled from Plaistow to Hampstead to knock on the door of Bill Brandt to present one of his prints, and the legendary photographer invited him in, recognising his precocious talent and offering encouragement to the young man.

Excerpt taken from an interview with gentle author, Spitalfields Life, who first published these photographs.
To read the full interview and see the remaining 14 photographs in this series, Click Here.

Flower Seller, E1, 1959.

Mass X-Ray, E14, 1966.

H Goldstein, E1, 1966.

Crane and Seagull, E16, 1960.

Abandoned, E13, 1962.

At the Window, E1, 1963.

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