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A Walk Through Time With C A Mathew

March 7, 2014
by the gentle author

Concluding my series of features about photographer C A Mathew, I publish Adam Tuck‘s haunting montages blending his pictures of the streets in 2012 with those of his predecessor a century earlier.

Sandys Row from the north

After seeing the work of photographer C A Mathew published in these pages, Adam Tuck was inspired to revisit the locations of the pictures taken a century ago. Subtly blending his own photographs of Spitalfields 2012 with C A Mathew’s photographs of Spitalfields 1912, Adam has initiated an unlikely collaboration with a photographer of a hundred years earlier and created a new series of images of compelling resonance.

In these montages, people of today co-exist in the same space with people of the past, manifesting a sensation I have always felt in Spitalfields – that all of history is present here. Yet those of a hundred years ago knew they were being photographed and many are pictured looking at the camera, whereas passsersby in the present day are mostly self-absorbed.  The effect is of those from the past wondering at a vision of the future, while those of our own day are entirely unaware of this ghostly audience.

It is hard to conceive of the meaning of time beyond our own lifespan. But these photographs capture something unseen, something usually hidden from human perception – they are pictures of time passing and each one contains a hundred years.

Sandys Row from the south

Looking from Bishopsgate down Brushfield St, towards Christ Church

Steward St

Looking down Widegate St towards Sandys Row

Looking down Middlesex St towards Bishopsgate

From Bishopsgate looking up Middlesex St

In Crispin St

In Bell Lane

In Artillery Lane looking towards Artillery Passage

From Bishopsgate through Spital Sq

Frying Pan Alley

Montages copyright © Adam Tuck

C A Mathew photographs copyright  © Bishopsgate Institute

Exhibition of C A Mathew’s photographs opens today Friday 7th March at Eleven Spitalfields in Princelet St and runs until 27th April

Take a look at more of C A Mathew’s photographs and read my earlier stories

C A Mathew, Photographer

In the Footsteps of C A Mathew

In Search of C A Mathew

C A Mathew at Brightlingsea

Upon the Subject of C A Mathew’s Pictures

36 Responses leave one →
  1. March 7, 2014

    Oh they are quite magical. Lovely!

  2. Jill Dion permalink
    March 7, 2014

    I love this! These photographs really give me the feel of time travel.

  3. Brian Williamson permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Absolutely brilliant. The people are like ghosts from the past haunting the streets.

    Those streets are where some of my ancestors came from before they emigrated to NZ–no wonder they left. But how uplifting the modern buildings and colours make it now.

    I feel most fortunate to have had the opportunity of seeing this series–please give us more.

  4. March 7, 2014

    Are you selling prints Mr Tuck?

  5. March 7, 2014

    Fantastic idea to merge the photos, the past has been made always tangible. Valerie

  6. Elizabeth Kennedy permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Beautiful montages, eerily uniting past and present. Thank you

  7. Libby Hall permalink
    March 7, 2014

    It is these extraordinary montages that turn Mathew’s quite ordinary photographs into something truly magical. For me any celebration of C.A. Mathew’s work would have as its raison d’etre this brilliant work, which so enchantingly fuses two moments in time.

  8. Lil Crosby permalink
    March 7, 2014

    How clever and what a good way to visualise these pictures.
    Mant thanks for an interesting article.

  9. March 7, 2014

    Thanks for posting these very haunting photo montages- wonderfully atmospheric, great work.

  10. Steve Bougeard permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Wonderful pictures. The juxtaposition of children in the streets then and cars now is striking.

  11. Patricia Taylor permalink
    March 7, 2014

    So moving and beautiful. Thank you for these images.

  12. Ms Marple permalink
    March 7, 2014

    So many more children in the past….. Love these photos.

  13. frank hadley permalink
    March 7, 2014

    many thanks for these old and new photos, i still favour the older ones as i lived and went to school in the area from 1948. i visit the old place often and though i find it more modern you just cannot get the feeling of being home.

  14. March 7, 2014

    These are incredible. What a brilliant idea too. They have such a haunting feel to them, it makes you wonder about all the people who passed through the space you’re occupying right now.
    Lucy xxx
    La Lingua : Food, Life & Travel in Italy

  15. Vanda Human permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Absolutely fantastic, amazing photography

  16. March 7, 2014

    These montages are really touching. For me London is a montage anyway, because it’s overlaid with so many stories. My dad would tell me about being a messenger boy when I went to visit him at work in Cheapside, or my mum prattling on about stuff so convincingly that I was sure I could actually see it as we rattled along on the top of a 101 bus to go and have a look at the river. I love that town, it can absorb anything and turn it into a story.

  17. March 7, 2014

    Outstanding! — This idea I had by myself recently … Well done, Mr Adam Tuck!

    Love & Peace

  18. George Lloyd permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Fabulous 🙂

  19. Chris Ashby permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Adam Tuck’s series of combined images are wonderful, as you say: “they are pictures of time passing and each one contains a hundred years.”
    Best wishes!

  20. Cornish Cockney permalink
    March 7, 2014

    I love these “ghost” pictures, and especially the ones where some is glancing around as if they’ve sensed their presence!

  21. Rose Ades permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Fabulous, culmination, reflection, weaving together.

  22. Rebecca permalink
    March 7, 2014

    These photos remind me of Penelope Lively’s wonderful book, City of the Mind, set in London: “And thus, driving through the city, he is both here and now, there and then. He carries yesterday with him, but pushes forward into today, and tomorrow, skipping as he will from one to the other.”

  23. Melvyn Brooks permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Very enjoyable – in fact one of the best. Impressions of Hackney 1861-2001 is a similar sort of presentation in book form. Front cover is a montage. The inside pages are “then and now”. Published in 2002 by Sutton Publishing it is a ‘must’ for every Hackney Nut-like me.

  24. Lynette Niequist permalink
    March 7, 2014

    What was the reason that there are so many children in the streets?

  25. Marla permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Extraordinary, thank you.

  26. Susan permalink
    March 7, 2014

    I’ve seen a similar blending of historic/modern photos elsewhere (I think on the Museum of London site?), but these ones are more subtly done, blending history in a particularly poignant way. I live in Canada, where there is often precious little history; in England, I have had the sense that the past – and going back into the very far past – is always present. I remember one time staying at a house built on an estate in the 14th century as a priest’s house; it felt as if everyone who had ever passed through the house was still there.

  27. Elli Pyne permalink
    March 7, 2014

    Fantastic, what a wonderful idea to combine the old photos with the modern, imagine the multitudes that would occupy these spots if they were blended from every year.
    Many thanks Adam Tuck for sharing these amazing pic’s.

  28. March 7, 2014

    These are very moving.

  29. March 7, 2014

    Sent a shiver down my spine – the past is with us…..

  30. March 7, 2014

    Lynette raised a fascinating question about why there seem to be so many children. I am guessing that large families and overcrowded accomodation meant that kids were lived more of their lives on the street than they do now. Plus, of course, no cars, no computers, and a different set of ideas about what was safe and appropriate for children. Seeing these photographs, I wonder what became of them all…..

  31. Sonia Murray permalink
    March 8, 2014

    Brilliant pictures, juxtaposing modern London with the ghosts of a bygone era. The casual clothing people wear today contrasts oddly with the formality of Victorian times. Perhaps the women wore voluminous clothes to keep warm. There was no central heating, and coal was very expensive. Fashions in clothing were very slow to change. When my husband came to England in 1954 he noted with surprise that navvies working on the roads wore suits. No blue jeans then!

    About the children – families of twelve were commonplace. There was no birth control. And the street was the only place to play.

  32. March 8, 2014

    Wonderful; a brilliant idea

  33. March 8, 2014

    These should be in the V&A

  34. Lisa permalink
    March 9, 2014

    Enchanting and captivating, a portal stepping into a past lifetime!

  35. Cherry Smith permalink
    March 10, 2014

    My Granny was born in the East End in 1900. By the age of 14, when the photos were taken, she was in service as an under-kitchen-maid at a big house in Kent. She slept there, in the kitchen fireplace. Did you notice how much smaller the ‘ghost’ people are than the modern folks? Malnutrition. Common people were a good 6″ shorter than the upper classes: along with their much shorter lifespan, this was believed to prove their genetic inferiority.

    Academics argued that the labouring classes were an inferior breed, incapable of fully responsible behaviour (just as they argued about non-white people.) The Great War and the Spanish Flu were about to wipe out such enormous quantities of people that this conceit could no longer be afforded. We owe our current ideas of equality to the millions who died in those four years.

  36. Leigh Walters permalink
    January 27, 2022

    It’s strange how the images from 100 years ago look clearer than the more current ones. The one looking down Widegate Street shows this clearly.

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