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David Hoffman’s East End

November 8, 2015
by the gentle author

Contributing Photographer David Hoffman sent me these pictures from the seventies he uncovered recently while digitising his archive and which it is my privilege to publish for the first time here today.

“I moved to the dilapidated slums of Whitechapel from the dilapidated slums of North Kensington in 1970. First to 19a Chicksand St which was soon demolished, then to 17 Black Lion Yard. When that was predictably demolished in 1973, I squatted one of the tinned-up tenement flats in Fieldgate Mansions, replacing the council concrete-filled loo and building a darkroom.

With a Nikon F and 35mm lens hanging from my wrist, I wandered the strange, chaotic time-slipped streets trying to work out what photography was about. I never did find out. These photos ended up as contact sheets buried and forgotten beneath the protest photography that became my specialism in the late seventies.

As I now digitise forty years’ work, they’ve floated back into sight. I think they’ve matured nicely over the decades.” – David Hoffman

Photographs copyright © David Hoffman

You may also like to take a look at

David Hoffman at Fieldgate Mansions

David Hoffman at Crisis At Christmas

David Hoffman at Smithfield Market

David Hoffman down the Roman Rd

David Hoffman at St Botolph’s

David Hoffman at St Botolph’s in Colour

20 Responses leave one →
  1. November 8, 2015

    Lovely stuff.

  2. Robert Green permalink
    November 8, 2015

    Mr Hoffman may say that he never worked out what photography was all about but I don’t believe him, I think he knew exactly what it is about right back when he took these photos, I think they are FANTASTIC, these images of Club Row market capture perfectly the gritty reality of exactly what it was like in the 1970s and it may sound like a contradiction but I think the lack of colour adds greatly to the realism of the images, they do everything a really good photo should do, each one shows a static image, a moments capture in time of what existed, they are REAL, everyone can see the same image, and yet I can virtually guarantee that everyone who looks at them will get a different perception of what they see, to some they will see a grim and pitiful existence, some will see sadness, others will see the reality of a way of life that they would be happy to consign to the past, and then there will Im sure be others like Me who will look at them with a wonderfull warmth of nostalgia, manny people may think I must be a complete ‘nutter’ to feel warmth and great pleasure for looking at images of such seemingly pitiful starkness, even poverty, but to me as someone who has lived through this time they make me feel nostalgia, they make me feel regret for the people who were forced to live such a hard and unrewarding life and they make me feel sadness for lost friends and comrades and yet at the same time they make me feel immensely happy, and full of spirit, and that is precisely why these are such GREAT photos, because a thousand different people can look at exactly the same image and yet each and every one of them will be left with a thousand DIFFERENT perceptions of what they see, thats why this is GREAT photography, because it shows you what was REAL but it encourages your mind to interpret what you see, WONDERFUL, If any exist, you MUST show us some more GA, = please.

  3. Georgina Briody permalink
    November 8, 2015

    Remember the chap third picture down, he had an Houdini act at Tower Hill. Would entertain City workers and tourists every day and worked hard escaping from a chained sack and also a sword was involved.

    Fond memories of my younger days!

  4. November 8, 2015

    Good photos which mirror the atmosphere of the time. Vaerie

  5. November 8, 2015

    Great stuff David, remember it well, I just wish I had taken more photographs, before east end got gentrified.

  6. November 8, 2015

    The sixth photo features some kids playing with a large inflatable Sumo wrestler. This is one of a pair of wresters made and ‘manoeuvred’ by Jules Baker and Rosie Antrobus, who worked out of S.P.A.C.E studios in Martello Street, Hackney. The figures were strapped to the backs of Jules and Rosie and they would ‘fight’ each other. It looks like Jules is attached to the inflatable in the photo. They were a fairly common sight around London then – they also made monsters for Dr. Who.

  7. Ros permalink
    November 8, 2015

    Robert Green I always look forward to reading your comments, they are always excellent but today’s are really tops. Thanks for them and thanks to David Hoffman and of course TGA.

  8. November 8, 2015

    I saw London in 1978 — many memories of it!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  9. Avril Towell (was Jenner) permalink
    November 8, 2015

    Apart from these photos being taken in the 1970s, my memory of this area (apart from the clothes) was the same during the early 1950s. Black & white pics make it even more real for me. We lived in Fellows street Haggerston & came through this area often to visit my relatives in Henley Buildings Bethnal Green. Colour was provided by Columbia Road flower market which was a breath of fresh air in a rather smoky atmosphere.

  10. Pauline Taylor permalink
    November 8, 2015

    I think that the three lads with their hands in their pockets sum up what Robert Green is saying, these photos are great, and show us the reality of those times for some people. We were so fortunate to be reasonably well off then with a house of our own, but we had neighbours on either side of us who had moved out from the East End so we did hear stories of their struggle to build a new life for themselves. Education was I think the answer as both husbands had found good jobs in the City, and could afford to become commuters, we admired them, and still do, enormously, as they had all come from disadvantaged homes. I am sure that they missed the close communities and their families that they had left, but we welcomed them to, what they regarded as, the depths of the country, and we became lifelong friends. These photos make me realize, as I had really never done before, just what life had been like for them before.

    Black and white photography does, as always, make the images even more striking. Wonderful!

  11. Peter Holford permalink
    November 8, 2015

    For me these pictures evoke memories of my grandma. An Eastender through and through she was taken out to live in Hertfordshire by her daughter (my aunt). It was a beautiful bungalow with a huge garden and a view of the countryside. Within a month she had bolted and was back living in a damp, dirty flat in Hackney. Having been brought up on the other side of London I was mystified. But she was happy living the life among her friends and in the community. She would fit into any of these photos – well, perhaps most of them.

  12. November 9, 2015

    Does everybody still look that rough? Or are we just not looking?

  13. November 10, 2015

    Wonderful photographs!

  14. November 10, 2015

    David, these are all wonderful….blimey what a lot of poverty back then….I remember as a kid ‘totting’ with my Dad by that chain link fence on Cheshire Street in about 64-65…. we used to get there abot 4 in the morning on a Sunday and flog any old stuff…my job was to clean up old spark plugs with emery paper and sell’ em for 6p each…dad used to hang second hand clothes on the fence…remember a wonderful doughnut shop down there and a record shop where I bought my first 45…’Remember the Spartans’ by Sounds Incorporated ( have the CD in the car !! )…I’d love to go through you contacts to see If you have anything from the top end of Brick Lane showing my Uncle Charlie on his stall selling cosmetics ( opposite where the ‘Top’ Beigal shop is now….)

  15. Jackie joseph permalink
    November 11, 2015

    Thank you David Hoffman you took me back to the 1950 my friend maureen sherman lived in the mansion (opposite george the poles pub) we went to Jersey together (there was four of us ) a couple who live on the island wanted to give four East end girls a hoilday of a life time and they did we were 12-13 years old maureen and her bother and mum lived in the basement l have not seen her since .l love your work thank you . jj

  16. tony permalink
    November 11, 2015

    Absolutely fantastic images of the 70′s in dear ol Spitalfields. ..brick lane club row….I’m my youth then it felt like a post apocalyptic supermarket….my most vivid memory of back then….some dilapidated bombs items market backwater off Cheshire street….a burning waste bin brazier….crap being sold….and a 78 player knocking out fats waller ‘if you a viper’….I was about 17 and it’s seared on my brain. I didn’t know Hoffman then….wish I had but am glad to know him these past 20 yrs…he captures images that evoke such strong memories so very well. Thanks for sharing these now.

  17. November 14, 2015

    Wonderful. There’s a story etched onto every face in every picture.

  18. Trevor permalink
    November 16, 2015

    Around 1977/78 I used to drive my Ford Cortina to Cheshire St and park up near the Vallance Road end and open my boot along with many other cars and sell my old unwanted items from it. If the police were seen, there was always someone who would shout out to warn everyone as what we were doing was illegal. I have often wondered if this was where the term car boot sale came from.

  19. Ian Silverton permalink
    November 10, 2016

    The guy with the large picture on his shoulders,looks like Fred Brooks,a Bethnal Green publican at one stage of his life,then a another one stall holder in Leather Lane Market, we had many great times together in the 60s 8os,he is still mentioned in East End folk law.

  20. Shawdian permalink
    November 13, 2016

    A Hard Life

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