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More of Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies

June 9, 2012
by the gentle author

“There is a kind of magnificence about them.” – Phil Maxwell

I cannot resist publishing more of East End street photographer Phil Maxwell’s portraits of the heroic old ladies of Spitalfields and Whitechapel, out of the hundreds he has taken over the last thirty years.

In the first century, Boudica rode her chariot through Spitalfields on the way to raze the Roman City of Londonium in revenge for the oppression of her people. In the sixteenth century, the legendary Mother Goose drove her geese down through Bishopsgate, walking her flock of birds from Norwich to London for sale. In the last century, the Suffragettes marched from the East End to Parliament to demand votes for women.

And these old ladies of more recent years, portrayed here in Phil Maxwell’s lucid photographs, are the worthy descendants of those brave females.We celebrate them all for their beauty, their unassailable spirit and their mythic presence.

Photographs copyright © Phil Maxwell

Follow Phil Maxwell’s blog Playground of an East End Photographer

See more of Phil Maxwell’s work here

Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies

Phil Maxwell on the Tube

Phil Maxwell & Sandra Esqulant, Photographer & Muse

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

The Cat Lady of Spitalfields

Phil Maxwell, Photographer

6 Responses leave one →
  1. June 9, 2012

    What wonderful photos. They reflect the young women within those old bodies. They all have clearly had quite a journey, and each photo places them so very particularly in their current situation (struggling from A to B overladen with Stuff, or scraping a living by street-hawking). Some wear on their faces the surprise I sometimes feel at How It’s All Turned Out (Number 13), while others look as though nothing at all would surprise them.

    And there I am! Well, not quite, but very nearly there (certainly my 70’s childhood dentist has helped me on the way to That Look). I’d like to think I am Number 1, with shopping bag on wheels and nice headscarf. But I’m probably more like Number 26 (same bag, minus wheels, looking slightly aghast).

    Wonderful, and a great post.

  2. June 9, 2012

    I like the women taking an unselfconscious moment to rest their weary limbs on the market carts.

  3. jo watts permalink
    June 9, 2012

    *ruth* – i really enjoyed your comment. i am a trader and can also see myself ending up like if not then similar to No. 26 🙂

  4. jy permalink*
    June 9, 2012

    one is doris sheray nicest old i new she was alcholic but would when not drunk help you and be kind ,she love to talk and told old warm stories of here life .she went and got treated for alcohol problems and last years left the area of bethnal green ,a wonderful person and missed by all who knew her from the streets of bethnal green and onwards .except the police she didnt like them at all keplt picking her up .

  5. Clare permalink
    June 19, 2012

    Wonderful pictures Philip, they all probably have many tales to tell! But still no mother!!!!!!

  6. July 22, 2012

    Believe ‘Mile End, 1990’ 0r photo 23 with the ‘Save Mile End Hospital’ campaigners includes local legend Mildred Gordon. This lady became an MP for Bow and Poplar. Last year she supported the campaign to stop the demolition of ‘Mother Levy’s’ – not because it was still a local hospital – but as she is a child of Spitalfields, born in Mother Levy’s , the Jewish Maternity Home in 1923. She also campaigned at Parliament back in the 1980’s to stop the traders being moved out of Spitalfields Market, recalling the Spitalfields of her youth, with mulberry trees in the back yards of weavers’ houses. Mildred Gordon would make a great subject for Spitalfields Life and Phil Maxwell could take another photograph? (And of course, one wonders how she feels about the demolition of the 1929 London Fruit and Wool Exchange of Spitalfields Market?)

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