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Izis Bidermanas’ London

February 11, 2014
by the gentle author

Lithuanian-born Israel Bidermanas (1911-1980) first achieved recognition under the identity of Izis for his portraits of members of  the French resistance that he took while in hiding near Limoges at the time of the German invasion. Encouraged by Brassai, he pursued a career as a professional photographer in peacetime, fulfilling commissions for Paris Match and befriending Jacques Prévert and Marc Chagall. He and Prévert were inveterate urban wanderers and in 1952 they published ‘Charmes de Londres,’ delivering this vivid and poetic vision of the shabby old capital in the threadbare post-war years.

In the cemetery of St John, Wapping

Milk cart in Gordon Sq, Bloomsbury

At Club Row animal market, Spitalfields

The Nag’s Head, Kinnerton St, W1

In Pennyfields, Limehouse

Palace St, Westminster

Ties on sale in Ming St, Limehouse

Greengrocer, Kings Rd, Chelsea

Diver in the London Docks

Organ Grinder, Shaftesbury Ave, Piccadilly

Sphinx, Chiswick Park

Hampden Crescent, W2

Underhill Passage, Camden Town

Braithwaite Arches, Wheler St, Spitalfields

East India Dock Rd, Limehouse

Musical instrument seller, Petticoat Lane

Grosvenor Crescent Mews, Hyde Park Corner

Unloading in the London Docks

London Electricity Board Apprentices

On the waterfront at Greenwich

Tower Bridge

Photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

Harold Burdekin’s London Nights

Roland Collins’ London

John Claridge’s East End

Marketa Luskacova’s Brick Lane

24 Responses leave one →
  1. February 11, 2014

    This is the London I remember when I moved from the countryside as a very young child: the still-recovering-from-war city of the early 1950s. Very evocative images.

  2. February 11, 2014

    Superb, superb photographs
    I love the boy in the graveyard. And the roundabout.

  3. Jouanisson permalink
    February 11, 2014

    Izis is great and your blog too. Friendly

  4. Ulf Jacobsen permalink
    February 11, 2014

    Wonderful! You may find many of these pictures in the book Gala Day London, published by Harvill Press in 1953, together with original texts directly related to the photographs contributed by writers, poets and artists of the day (among them John Betjeman, T. S. Eliot, Henry Green, Laurie Lee, Anthony Powell, Stephen Spender and Angus Wilson). Printed in Switzerland, with an extraordinary blackness of tone.

  5. February 11, 2014

    Wonderful, evocative photos, which show me the London I knew as a child. Valerie

  6. February 11, 2014

    These photos are exquisite. I should be getting on with my day – they made me press the pause button and take a peek. Thank you

  7. Erminia permalink
    February 11, 2014

    Today’s post is absolutely stunning. I am in awe of those pictures, especially the Greengrocer one and the one of the Greenwich Riverfront…which I think is now The Cutty Sark Tavern a few minutes away from the Trafalgar Tavern.
    What do you think?

  8. Steve permalink
    February 11, 2014

    Wonderful images of a London now unfortunately long gone. It fills me with great sadness when I think of how things were and how London is now.

  9. Jose Cadaveira permalink
    February 11, 2014

    Fantastic Photos!

  10. sonia lambert permalink
    February 11, 2014


  11. February 11, 2014

    A beautiful kaleidoscope of time typical scenes from a significant period. Very impressive and outstanding photographs!

    Love & Peace

  12. February 11, 2014

    Stunning photographs.

    We love your blog.

  13. February 11, 2014

    Outstanding and inspirational photographs of real historical importance. Interesting that he seems to have favoured a portrait frame over landscape.

  14. February 11, 2014

    “Braithwaite Arches” a very sad photograph,Excellent photographs all of them.liked the B&W.

  15. John Campbell permalink
    February 11, 2014

    Wonderful pictures! I think the Hampden Crescent photo pre-dates the great Roger Mayne’s work in the same dirty streets.

  16. February 11, 2014

    WOW these are real gems , taken by an artist, a poetic and vivid vision as you say G.A ,poetic work.
    Stunning and complete works each one , so special.
    Thank you for sharing pure treasure that truelly changes and uplifts ones spirit.

  17. Peter Holford permalink
    February 12, 2014

    Fascinating to see how addresses in West London were once as working class as the East End. I just about remember Putney, Fulham and Chelsea looking like that – but not any longer!

  18. February 13, 2014

    These photos catch the atmosphere of postwar London just as I imagine it: Surviving war and carrying on, but so shabby and worn down…

  19. April 10, 2014

    We bought our first dog from Club Row (Pluto) from the back of a trailer fella said he was a Fox Terrier nice and small a few months later we had a half Alsation lump !! Loved him all the same lasted till 17 bless him…

  20. Isis permalink
    April 23, 2014

    Bidermanas’s portraits of French Resistance fighters are exhbited in the Caen Memorial in Normandy. They are large black and white prints that are striking, moving, and memorable. This entry has reminded me to search for a collection of the photos in book form. The London photos are grand, too.

  21. Mick permalink
    August 1, 2015

    The photos of some places I recognize have incorrect captions (or Izis and/or his publisher got ir wrong….

    “In Pennyfields, Limehouse” is the corner of Emmett St and Westferry Rd, looking north. A couple of hundred yards from Pennyfields, and now buried under Westferry Circus.

    “Ties on sale in Ming St, Limehouse”. The shop was Grant’s Meanswear in West India Dock Rd, opposite West India House.

    “At Club Row animal market, Spitalfields”. It is what we called Club Row Market, but Club Row is in Shoreditch, not Spitalfields. And this particular photo was taken on Bethnal Green Rd.

  22. Andrew Cole permalink
    September 13, 2016

    The photograph of the young Boy looking out of the first floor window at a flower seller is myself taken at 28 Palace Street Victoria SW1 I would have been 8 or 9 and the Houses backed on to Watneys Stag Brewery where my Father was a Brewer
    These fine Georgian Buildings are sadly no longer standing as with Watneys Brewery
    Great Photographs and bringing back great memories

  23. February 26, 2017

    The Name John Cranfield belongs in the same sentence as William Whiffen,LEDGENDS.!

  24. sara midda permalink
    February 17, 2020

    Beautiful, thank you

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