Skip to content

Boris Bennett, Photographer

November 21, 2014
by the gentle author

It is my pleasure to publish this selection of pictures by the celebrated Whitechapel Wedding Photographer, Boris Bennett (1900-1985), whose work is now collected into a handsome monograph entitled Vintage Glamour in London’s East End published by Hoxton Minipress. There is a compelling poignancy to these pictures, recording the most important events in the lives of their subjects. Brimming with emotion, many were putting a troubled Eastern European past behind them as they turned their faces to the camera – and Boris’ emotive photographs capture the significant moment when his subjects ‘arrived.’

Boris Bennett, 1985

“My father, Boris Bennett, was the doyen of Jewish wedding photographers and became a legend in his own lifetime. Over the course of his working life, he took 150,000 wedding photographs and it was cited in the Jewish East End that, ‘if you haven’t got a Boris wedding picture, you aren’t married.’ Even today, it is hard to find a London Jewish home where a ‘Boris’ wedding photo is not on display. Indeed, his popularity extended beyond the East End – prior to the end of World War II, Boris opened studio premises in the West End, at first on Oxford St with further studios in Bond St, Marble Arch, Leicester Sq and the Strand.” – Michael Bennett

Polly Cohen & Julius Henry Goldwater were married on 26th December, 1929 at West Ham District Synagogue, Earlhamgrove, Forest Gate. The couple settled in Cambridge and Julius, originally from Edgbaston, Birmingham, ran ladies and menswear shops. They had two children, Clive & Marlene.

Dora Sweetman & Isaac Feierstein were married on 15th June, 1930 at Fieldgate St Great Synagogue, Stepney. Isaac, born in Warsaw, was a master tailor with a workshop in Stoke Newington and Dora was a tailoress.

Elsie Pliskin & Victor Pliskin were first cousins aged nine and six at the wedding of their cousin Minnie Pliskin, a milliner, and Barnett Cooklin, a cabinetmaker, on 11th December, 1932 at Jubilee St Great Synagogue. Victor’s winged collar was specially made by the outfitters, Mays in Whitechapel Road, next door to the Blind Beggar pub. Victor later married Irene Plisken on 11th August, 1946 in the Dunstan Rd Synagogue, Golders Green with the reception at the Regal Ballrooms, Finchley Rd. Victor was a machinist at a London tailor but was evacuated to Luton during World War II. Later he set up his own ladies’ tailoring business called ‘Renvic Modes’ and Irene became a hairdresser like her father Reuben Plisken.

Dora Ackerman was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Aida Margolis & Hyman Lever in October 1931. Dora, a friend of Aida, was married in 1933 to Nathan Misner and had a daughter in 1936 and a son a year later. Both Dora and Nathan worked in the jewellery trade. During World War II, Nathan served in the Far East and Dora died prematurely in 1944, aged only thirty-six.

Fanny Borona (also known as Felice Flatto) was a shop assistant who married Morris Winter, a tailor’s cutter, on 1st May 1932 at the Great Synagogue, Dukes Place, in the City of London. Fanny died aged eighty-eight on 27th January, 1996 in Hove, after an unspecified accident.

Eva Specter & Sanuel Goodstein were married on 30th March 1933 at Jubilee St Great Synagogue. The reception was held at La Boheme Ballrooms in Mile End Rd and was catered by M. Stern and Sons of Dalston with music provided by Leavey’s Oxford Orchestra. The bride’s parents were born and married in Russia and arrived in London in the early nineteen-hundreds, where Eva was born in Poplar in 1908. David’s parents were also born and married in Poland and arrived at the beginning of the century. Samuel was born in Mile End in 1906, he was an electrician by trade and Eva was a dressmaker, making all the dresses in the photograph herself. On the left of the bride is Gertrude Goodstein, Samuel’s sister, and to her left is Dinky, Eva’s cousin. To the right of Samuel is Rebecca Specter, Eva’s sister, and standing in front is Rene Specter, Eva’s niece.

Fay Kaufman & Sidney Croup were married on 17th March, 1935 at Philpot St Synagogue, Whitechapel. Sidney, whose parents came from Lithuania, was a self-employed tailor like his brother Morris and Fay did the button-holes for suits made by her husband. The couple lived in Stepney and in 1960 moved to Ilford. The page boy was Sidney’s nephew, Roy Segal, while the bridesmaid is believed to be a cousin of Fay’s.

Esther Davidson & Kurt Keyem were married on 22nd June, 1939 at the Beth Hamedrash Synagogue, Stamford Hill. Kurt, born in 1914, was director of a chemical company, his father Jacob was an upholsterer and Esther, born in 1906, was a tailor’s manageress. Esther had a brother, Alec Davidson,who married Eva Yanovitch in 1943, and four sisters Annie, Yetta, Bella and Dolly. The wedding hats were made by Bella, a milliner, and the dresses by Bella’s mother Betsy.

Annie & Isaac Abraham Severin were photographed c. 1931. Isaac was a furrier and both were born in Poland in 1884. Isaac died in 1953 and Annie two years later. They are both are buried in Edmonton Cemetery.

Monty Hubbersgilt was photographed at his Bar Mitzvah in April 1938 with his sister Sylvia and his parents, Alec & Rachel. At the time, the family lived at Wellington Ave, Stamford Hill and Monty attended Tottenham Grammar School. The Hubbersgilts came to London in 1901 from Vitebsk in Lithuania. Alec was brought over nine years later by his aunt. His family of eleven children (eight boys and three girls) lived in Brick Lane above his workshop and all the boys were trained as cabinet makers. Alec was educated at the Jewish Free School but left at fourteen to work with his father. He married Rachel on 17th June 1924 at Philpot St Synagogue. By the time of Monty’s Bar Mitzvah, Alec owned his own factory in Stamford Hill, employing around fifty people, specialising in the manufacture of cocktail cabinets and dining room furniture. Monty’s mother Rachel had also come to London from Vitebsk in the early nineteen-hundreds with her family (ten girls and one boy) and lived in Customs House, Docklands. Not wanting to stay at home, she trained to be a shorthand typist.

Sir John Edward Cohen, known as Jack Cohen, was born in 1898 in Whitechapel, the son of a Polish tailor. In 1917, he joined the Royal Flying Corps, serving as a canvas maker. In 1919, using thirty pounds of his demobilisation gratuity, he set himself up as a market trader in Hackney selling surplus NAAFI food. With his fast turnover and low prices, Jack earned himself the nickname ‘Jack the Slasher’. He soon owned a number of stalls and started a wholesale business. In 1924, the same year Jack married Cissie Fox, he created the Tesco brand name from the initials of a tea supplier, T. E. Stockwell, and the first two letters of his surname. The first Tesco store opened in 1931 and, over the next eight years, the company grew rapidly, opening more than a hundred small stores mainly in the London area. In 1935, Jack visited the United States but his dream of setting up American-style supermarkets was halted by World War II. In 1948, the first self-service store opened in St Albans and, over the next twenty years, Tesco expanded quickly across the country, mainly by the acquisition of smaller grocery chains. In 1969, Jack was knighted and retired from the business in 1973, by which time Tesco operated nearly nine hundred supermarkets. Jack & Cissie had two daughters, Shirley & Irene. Jack died in 1979.

Click here to order a copy of VINTAGE GLAMOUR IN LONDON’S EAST END

31 Responses leave one →
  1. November 21, 2014

    Wonderful portraits. I really love this book.

  2. November 21, 2014

    i wonder how many of Boris’ photographs were kept. I am trying to track down my parents and grandparents wedding photographs.

  3. November 21, 2014

    What an evocation of another time. Superb photography, arrangement, lighting, and composition. I have family photographs from the same era, few if any match the quality here. Thank you.

  4. November 21, 2014

    Beautiful photos! I have a photo from 1927 reminiscent of the first one, of a wedding where my Mother was bridesmaid. It was taken by L J Suss in London, although I don’t know where his studio was. Valerie

  5. SBW permalink
    November 21, 2014

    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful images, which tell so many stories. I admire the way many of the photographs are styled, with the glamourous Art Deco shapes in the backgrounds and the shadows they cast. I am looking for information about a man I worked for in the 1970s – Lolly King. His father was Ralph King, and they had a chain of small leather goods shops, and also stalls in various markets, including Norwich. Lolly was a great inspiration to me, and was very kind. Mrs King, his mother, had her hair cut at Vidal Sassoon and always wore shaded of brown and cream. I think they eventually lived in Golders Green. Any information gratefully received. sbw.

  6. Jacqueline spencer permalink
    November 21, 2014

    wonderful photographs

  7. November 21, 2014

    Grand story again!

    Love & Peace

  8. Ros permalink
    November 21, 2014

    quality photos indeed and such an evocation of Jewish life and hopes in the 30s.

  9. November 21, 2014

    What a wonderful collection.

  10. Neville Turner permalink
    November 22, 2014

    Photo’s of such style and posture of those involved, they are magical to look at – it would be difficult to find equal kill in the making of wedding photography today, very stylish indeed.

  11. rachel permalink
    November 22, 2014

    As an American of English-Jewish descent. your stories of Jewish life in the East End, give me a glimpse of a life I know nothing about.

    My grandfather, a tailor, came here after serving in the RAF in WWI, as a tailor repairing the canvas wings of the biplanes. He died in 1928 due to an infection from an appendix operation, so the english part of his life is a mystery. My grandmother, an awful woman, remembered very little and subsequently married 2 more times.

    Thank you and I do cherish these stories.

  12. Mel Goodman permalink
    November 22, 2014

    really enjoyed seeing these superb photographs.

    Jack Cohen would be both proud and sad at what’s happening to Tesco just now.

  13. Myra Waddell permalink
    November 23, 2014

    I have several lovely photos taken by Boris – of the weddings of two of my aunts and that of my parents. Beautiful.

  14. November 23, 2014

    Having just purchased the Boris book it has given a wonderful focused insight into the era that my parents were part of. One cannot but wonder the lives these people lived. Looking closely at their faces one poses so many unanswered questions. The elaborate costumes was a statement of how they wished to be seen. The cost during those war years must have been for many a huge sacrifice.
    The book is to my mind a major statement about a jewish era now completely vanished, a true testament.

  15. hugo cavendish permalink
    January 8, 2015

    Am Yisroel Chai!

  16. Cathy Murphy permalink
    September 14, 2015

    Both my parents were from Ireland but lived in the East End. They had their wedding photos taken in Boris’ studio in 1939/40. Several of my mum’s many sisters and their husbands also had their wedding photos taken there. I have a beautiful wedding photo of my parents in a gorgeous Art Deco frame on display. So many friends have seen it and think it is of Hollywood stars of the time.

  17. Judi Stoller permalink
    December 8, 2015

    My parents, Catherine and Arnold Kendal (Kitty and Jock) were photographed by Boris with the very familiar backdrop and when visiting friends of ours in Toronto, her parents and Aunt and Uncle were displayed with the same scene, so very special. However, I don’t see these pictures on line, but I wonder if they are in this book.
    It would be wonderful to see them, even though I do have their Wedding photograph, which I discovered after they passed away! My mother had a feather in her hat and didn’t like it and would never show me the photo! I think they were married in 1942 – October 27th.
    Thank you.
    Can you tell me where to purchase this book, the next time I’m in London, I would like to but it?
    Thank you.
    Judi Stoller (nee Kendal)

  18. Frances Stapley permalink
    September 3, 2017

    My late father in law worked for Jack Cohen Holloway 1930s

  19. Lisa permalink
    October 11, 2018

    We have just found an amazing wedding photo of my in
    Laws by boris from the 40s.
    What amazing work.

  20. Jillian Foley permalink
    September 2, 2019

    After reading this article I had to rush out and buy the book which is absolutely beautiful. I read it every day. I found a lovely photo of my late mother in law Polly Foley and her husband Lewis Isaacs on her wedding day in 1912 at the Philpot Street Synagogue taken by Louis Suss of the Vienna Art Studio, 25 Whitechapel Road. She is wearing the most beautiful wedding dress and Louis looks amazingly handsome – I can see where my late husband Norman gets his looks from! Now all my Jewish relatives have passed away – I feel so sad I can no longer discuss memories with them but it does help to read the articles in Spitalfields Life which are so inspiring. I now live on the South Coast but my heart is in London.

  21. Jackie Kalms permalink
    September 11, 2019

    There is nothing like a Boris photo – they evoke a wonderful era long gone – his widow came as a Guest Speaker to my WIZO Group in the 1980’s and we held an Exhibition of local community members wedding photos and their clothes and it was a fascinating experience – the local newspaper did an article on it. The exhibition at the Jewish Museum was excellent too.

  22. Jackie Kalms permalink
    November 3, 2019

    Please would Michael contact me as I would like him to come and speak to my WIZO Group at a Luncheon next summer in Southend.

    Many years ago we had his mother as a Guest Speaker and we put on an Exhibition that the Jewish Museum had at that time – plus we collected a number of photos that local people had – plus a lot of memorabilia – the local Evening Echo did a spread on the exhibition.

    We usually have about 120 guests at a catered lunch in a local Banqueting Suite – men and women we have a WIZO Membership of over 120.

    I would appreciate it if Michael could contact me –

    Jackie Kalms

    Tel 0208 428 0865

    I live part of my life in Hatch End, Middlesex.

  23. Anthony Bilmes permalink
    August 6, 2020

    A wonderful collection. I remember meeting Boris in the 1960s when I was a teenager and he was a client of my late father Maurice Bilmes. I knew that he was in the photography business (did the Bond Street premises not become a camera shot?) but I had no idea until I came across this website about an hour ago that he was such a brilliant photographer. A wonderful collection. One of the few benefits of insomnia!

  24. September 26, 2020

    i am writing a book on philip he’seltine his wife minnie lucy bobby channing
    remarried to edward teddie sassoon i cant find the wedding of minnie and edward sassoon amy help for me from t clarkr flat 14!42 hrs at pulteney street bath ba2 4dr somersetset thank you tom clarke

  25. Alexandra Durell permalink
    October 4, 2020

    These photographs are lovely. I have some old family wedding photos from around the 1920-30s, taken in the east end of London. I have one which is very similar to the style on this website – it was from the studios of J Suss Expert in Bridal Portraiture and Bridal Photography. My family were from the Stepney Green area – not Jewish, but the general styling of the portraits was very similar to those on this website. I would love to know more about my father’s family and the back story to their portrait photos.

  26. May 21, 2021

    I was privileged to work at B.Bennett & Sons in Oxford St, in 1963 and I met Boris only on a couple of occasions also my namesake Michael Bennett on a few.

  27. November 2, 2021

    did edward teddie sassoon marty anyone before minnie heseltine i cant find out anything about minnie nchannimg eho became a mrs sassoon amy help at all tom clarke flat 14 42 great pulteney street bath ba2 4dr somerset tom clarke

  28. April 30, 2022

    I have a Boris wedding photo of my parents, Joseph Richmond and Jessie Harlow. They married at St Luke’s Church, Old Street in June 1938. Should these names jog any memories I’d be delighted to know.

  29. DEREK PAUL permalink
    June 23, 2022

    I was watching posh pawn on tv and chap took a load cameras to get some as his Father had cancer his name was Bennett. i just wondering if they were related , as worked back in the 1955s on there shop 27Oxford STREET AND 117 OXFORD STREET , A good man to work for , I also new the sons .

  30. Leonard Phillips permalink
    January 18, 2023

    Hopefully you will remember me, I was one of a twin i.e. Leonard & Frank Phillips, old friends of Mike & Maurice Benett.
    would love to make contact if hopefully are still alive and kicking.!
    I am now 88 years of age. Fondest wishes Leonard

  31. Jacki Reason permalink
    May 21, 2024

    I have my parents’ Boris wedding photograph from 1936 – it’s very beautiful

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS