Moyra Peralta’s Street Portraits
Sylvia in Tenterground, Spitalfields
Since I published it last week, this compelling photograph has been haunting me with its tender emotional resonance. Sylvia’s once-smart shoes and flowery dress tell us about the life she wished to lead – and maybe about the life she had led – yet it is apparent from Moyra Peralta‘s affectionate portrait that the life Sylvia aspired to was lost to her forever. Unwillingly to enter a night shelter, she slept rough in Spitalfields in the seventies and today this photograph exists as the only lasting evidence that, in spite of her straitened circumstance, Sylvia kept her self-respect.
Following my recent gallery of Moyra Peralta’s Spitalfields pictures, today I publish this selection of her London portraits. Through the seventies and until the end of the nineties, Moyra Peralta befriended people living on the street in the capital, visiting them several times each week. “I miss that world terribly,” she admitted to me, looking back on it, “my relationships were more social than photographic, but in the process of those relationships I took portraits – there are those here that I knew over thirty years, most of these people I knew for well over twenty to thirty years.”
“Definitions of the homeless lost all meaning for me.” Moyra emphasised, “As a photographer, I tried to show the human face, rather than the problem of homelessness itself because those termed ‘homeless’ are not an alien grouping – they are people of all ages and backgrounds, many of whom have met with crippling misfortunes.”
Moyra’s intimate photographs succeed as portraits of heroic individuals, evoking the human dignity of those marginalised by society. “To me, those I have photographed are an important part of our social history.” Moyra asserted to me, “I want my photographs to rescue people from oblivion and celebrate their lives lived in a climate of disregard.”
John T in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Bert known as ‘Birdman’ slept outdoors since the age of fourteen. He had an affinity with the black swans and sparrows in St James’ Park and was treated with tolerance by the Park Police.
Two men sitting in a cellar.
Maxie on the steps of the Cumberland Hotel, Marble Arch.
Maxie pours Stan a drink at Marble Arch.
Eddie and Brian tell tall stories on Kinsgway
Brian raps on the church door, Kingsway
Man and a cat in a Cyrenian short stay hostel, 1974.
Grant and pal laughing at the Bullring, South Bank
Mary reads the Big Issue in Holborn
Tommy M in Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Bill H, Cyrenian House, Barons Court, in the seventies.
Brian D at Middlesex Hospital, 1997
Brian’s begging hand.
Francis at Cable St
JW and Jim at Pratt St, Camden
John T, Storyteller, Whetstone 1995.
John T, the valentine.
Kerry’s Christmas Tree, Kingsway 1994.
Drag artistes from the Vauxhall Tavern give a surprise performance to entertain guests at a night shelter, 1974
Drag artistes improvise costumes at the Vauxhall shelter.
Billy and Maxie, two ex-servicemen at Marble Arch, 1976. Billy (left) died of a broken heart the year after Maxie’s death
Billy at Marble Arch in the seventies.
Sid takes tea at Ashmore Rd short stay hostel in West London.
Resident washing dishes at West London Mission, St Luke’s House – part of former Old Lambeth Workhouse, 1974.
Tiny, ex-circus hand and born wanderer extends a greeting at the Vauxhall Night Shelter, 1974.
Man and his bottle in Central London, seventies
Disabled Showman Zy with his wheels.
Zy plays a trick with his teeth
Brian the Poet in Kingsway, 1994.
Photographs copyright © Moyra Peralta
Signed copies of ‘NEARLY INVISIBLE,’ including these photographs and more by Moyra Peralta plus writing by John Berger & Alan Bennett, are available directly from Moyra for £5 plus £2 postage. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get your copy.
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