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Tony Bock’s Farewell To The East End

March 24, 2013
by the gentle author

Belhaven St – before & during demolition

Photographer Tony Bock left the East End  in 1978, and this is the East End he left behind – witnessed in these haunting pictures published for the first time today.

After dropping out of photography school in Toronto, Tony came to the East End and worked as a staff photographer for the East London Advertiser between 1973 and 1978. He encountered  a world in upheaval and only just managed to photograph Belhaven St, Mile End – where his mother’s family had once lived – before it was demolished.

Born in Paddington but brought up in Canada, Tony’s quest to explore his East End roots found expression in these soulful streetscapes, largely unpopulated save for sparse, fleeting figures, a boy with a gun, and the photographer’s own shadow. “Much of the East End seemed to be clad in corrugated tin, often covering buildings that had once shown the enthusiasm and optimism of architects and artisan builders.” Tony confided, “The very fabric of the community was disregarded with little consideration of its true value.”

Yet there is a subtle poetry in each of Tony’s pictures that never fails to acknowledge the human presence, even in seemingly abandoned places. They are the poignant memories that he carried away with him when he left after his brief years in the East End, returning to make his life in Canada.

“The buildings were reflections of the communities they housed, where the domestic scale of architecture made the streets feel like home.” Tony concluded, “Those I photographed on Stepney Green exhibit a wonderfully diverse collection of styles, the simple humane beauty of an unplanned group of buildings.”

In old Bethnal Green Fire Station

Shopfront

In Barking

Shopfront

Backyard

Backyard

Children with a gun, Pearl St, Wapping

Tin wall, Hackney

Tin wall, Wapping

Tin wall, Agatha St – with photographer’s shadow

Demolition of Tilbury & Southend Warehouse, Aldgate

Demolition 0f Tobacco Dock with tower of St George-in-the-East

In Hoxton St

Shopfront

In Bethnal Green

In Plaistow

Norah St, Bethnal Green

Stanley Terrace, Stratford

In Hackney Wick

On Stepney Green

Photographs copyright © Tony Bock

You may like to see these other photographs by Tony Bock

Tony Bock, Photographer

Tony Bock’s East Enders

Tony Bock at Watney Market

Tony Bock on the Thames

Tony Bock on the Railway

9 Responses leave one →
  1. sprite permalink
    March 24, 2013

    Those corrugated iron fences is what I remember of the East End in 79, they were everywhere still hiding bombsites. The stairwell of the Old Fire station: the building now houses the Buddhist Centre of the Triratna order previously known as Western Buddhist order, which is flourishing at the moment. Tobacco Dock was the operating patch of those midwives portrayed in the recent TV series, a ‘must read’ of the books on which it is based to get a glimpse of the community life that once thrived there.

  2. March 24, 2013

    Wonderful images – stunning and heartbreaking at the same time. I’ve loved seeing them, thank you.

  3. havingalook2 permalink
    March 24, 2013

    I so love the images that Tony took so many years ago and captured an era. I fear though he is running out of images of London’s East End and I have grown rather fond of them, from the faces, to the railways, to the Thames…Please Tony, do find more.

    Greetings from another fellow Canadian, in Toronto that loves the East End.
    Cheers

  4. Judy Poleg permalink
    March 24, 2013

    Hi, Wonderful photographs!
    To Sprite: I am in the middle of the book that you mentioned and it was the first thing that came to mind as my eyes met these haunting images!

    Thanks Gentle Author – as always!

  5. Gary permalink
    March 24, 2013

    It is like another sad verse to add to Mitelles song “Streets of London”
    To think of all of the lives lived out in those houses
    Gary

  6. Peter Holford permalink
    March 24, 2013

    A poignant collection of photos – interesting and as skilful as ever. He was chronicling the end of an era.

  7. Vicky permalink
    March 25, 2013

    And the destruction continues apace! Now the Geffrey Museum is pulling down what’s left of our East End heritage and Boris is using his powers to keep those demolition balls swinging across London. Shame on both.

  8. March 26, 2013

    Our own Walker Evans. Wonderful.

  9. jackie kendall permalink
    March 27, 2013

    i was brought up in Belhaven Street lived there until i got married 1964 xxx

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