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Tony Hall, Photographer

August 13, 2018
by the gentle author

Bonner St, Bethnal Green

Tony Hall (1936-2008) would not have described himself as a photographer – his life’s work was that of a graphic designer, political cartoonist and illustrator. Yet, on the basis of the legacy of around a thousand photographs that he took, he was unquestionably a photographer, blessed with a natural empathy for his subjects and possessing a bold aesthetic sensibility too.

Tony’s wife Libby Hall, known as a collector of dog photography, revisited her husband’s photographs before giving them to the Bishopsgate Institute where they are held in the archive permanently. “It was an extraordinary experience because there were many that I had never seen before and I wanted to ask him about them.” Libby confessed to me, “I noticed Tony reflected in the glass of J.Barker, the butcher’s shop, and then to my surprise I saw myself standing next to him.”

“I was often with him but, from the mid-sixties to the early seventies, he worked shifts and wandered around taking photographs on weekday afternoons,” she reflected, “He loved roaming in the East End and photographing it.”

Born in Ealing, Tony Hall studied painting at the Royal College of Art under Ruskin Spear. But although he quickly acquired a reputation as a talented portrait painter, he chose to reject the medium, deciding that he did not want to create pictures which could only be afforded by the wealthy, turning his abilities instead towards graphic works that could be mass-produced for a wider audience.

Originally from New York, Libby met Tony when she went to work at a printers in Cowcross St, Clerkenwell, where he was employed as a graphic artist. “The boss was member of the Communist Party yet he resented it when we tried to start a union and he was always running out of money to pay our wages, giving us ‘subs’ bit by bit.” she recalled with fond indignation, “I was supposed to manage the office and type things, but the place was such a mess that the typewriter was on top of a filing cabinet and they expected me to type standing up. There were twelve of us working there and we did mail order catalogues. Tony and the others used to compete to see who could get the most appalling designs into the catalogues.”

“Then Tony went to work for the Evening News as a newspaper artist on Fleet St and I joined the Morning Star as a press photographer.” Libby continued,” I remember he refused to draw a graphic of a black man as a mugger and, when the High Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan came to London, Tony draw a little ice cream badge onto his uniform on the photograph and it was published!” After the Evening News, Tony worked at The Sun until the move to Wapping, using this opportunity of short shifts to develop his career as a graphic artist by drawing weekly cartoons for the Labour Herald.

This was the moment when Tony also had the time to pursue his photography, recording an affectionate chronicle of the daily life of the East End where he lived from 1960 until the end of his life – first in Barbauld Rd, Stoke Newington, then in Nevill Rd above a butchers shop, before making a home with Libby in 1967 at Ickburgh Rd, Clapton. “It is the England I first loved …” Libby confided, surveying Tony’s pictures that record his tender personal vision for perpetuity,”… the smell of tobacco, wet tweed and coal fires.”

“He’d say to me sometimes, ‘I must do something with those photographs,’” Libby told me, which makes it a special delight to publish Tony Hall’s pictures

Click this picture to enlarge and see the reflection of Tony & Libby Hall in the window of J. Barker.

Children with their bonfire for Guy Fawkes

In the Hackney Rd

“I love the way these women are looking at Tony in this picture, they’re looking at him with such trust – it’s the way he’s made them feel. He would have been in his early thirties then.”

On the Regent’s Canal near Grove Rd

On Globe Rd

In Old Montague St

In Old Montague St

In Club Row Market

On the Roman Rd

In Ridley Rd Market

In Ridley Rd Market

In Artillery Lane, Spitalfields

Tony & Libby Hall in Cheshire St

Photographs copyright © Libby Hall

Images Courtesy of the Tony Hall Archive at the Bishopsgate Institute

Libby Hall & I would be delighted if any readers can assist in identifying the locations and subjects of Tony Hall’s photographs.

You may also like to read

Libby Hall, Collector of Dog Photography

The Dogs of Old London

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Judi Jones permalink
    August 13, 2018

    A photographer who has captured the soul as well as the image. Absolutely wonderful photographs.

    Thank you for bringing them to us as I would never have known about them otherwise.

    Also I read the article about Libby’s dog photos – that too was a treat.

    I’m so relieved I discovered Spitalfields Life. You’re a star GA . . . and I start each working day with your article and it puts so many things into perspective.

    Thank you.

  2. Susan Levinson permalink
    August 13, 2018

    Any chance of publishing a book of Tony Hall’s photos?

    As an aside, I own all of Libby Hall’s books and the photos are wonderful.

  3. Linda Delgaty permalink
    August 13, 2018

    Really enjoyed these photos. Thank you. The one of the couple with their dog on the canal bank is at the rear of the houses in Jodrell Road E3. My grandparents lived at 24 Jodrell Road and this shot took me straight back to my childhood. The Huggins shop is in Dace Road E3 and that is the School gate of my School Fordway primary. Thank you so much

  4. John Hughes permalink
    August 13, 2018

    The picture of the butcher shop had a flat above it where the owners son lived with his wife who was my aunt.
    The photo brings back memories of them both.

  5. August 13, 2018

    Tony has captured the East End I grew up in and remember with such fondness.
    His photographs are so evocative portraying the sights, atmosphere and people so beautifully.
    Another gem from The Gentle Author….thank you.

  6. August 13, 2018

    I love it when your readers chime in and add salient details, or simply sigh with recognition and heartfelt local nostalgia. When I scan through this magnificent array of photos, I feel I have been “adopted” into this region of Spitalfields. My urge is to grab my umbrella and carry bag, and head out through the markets, lanes, neighborhoods and shops. Lucky for us, Tony and Libby
    have preserved every inch of this wonderful place. Good on ya.

  7. Ros permalink
    August 13, 2018

    I love love love these photos.

  8. August 14, 2018

    More amazing images from Tony’s archive. Love the pub photographs and the self portrait with Libby at the end.

  9. October 9, 2018

    Belatedly, what a wonderful and evocative selection

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