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Please Help Me To Publish A Beautiful Book Of Colin O’Brien’s London Life

March 15, 2015
by the gentle author

Cover design by Friederike Huber

Over the winter, I have been collaborating with Contributing Photographer Colin O’Brien & Designer Friederike Huber to create a handsome hardback photographic monograph of Colin’s pictures entitled LONDON LIFE and now I am appealing to my readers to help us publish it in June.

Containing more than two hundred photographs arranged chronologically and selected from seven decades of work in the capital, LONDON LIFE is a social record of breathtaking expanse and I believe Colin OʼBrienʼs superlative photography – distinguished by its human sympathy and aesthetic flair – stands comparison with any of the masters of twentieth century British photography.

Since 1948, Colin has been photographing the life of Londoners, capturing dramatic and affectionate images which speak eloquently of change and continuity in the daily existence of the city and its people. Born in Clerkenwell in 1940, Colin was a photographic prodigy, graduating from taking pictures of his pals with a Box Brownie at eight years old to using a Leica in his teenage years and photographing the car crashes outside his window, at the junction of Clerkenwell Rd and Farringdon Rd.

In those days, Colin took his films down the Fleet St in person where his pictures often found their way into the pages of national newspapers and ever since he has pursued a personal photographic project of recording the drama of London life.

Out of hundreds of pictures, two stand out for me as milestones. One is Colin’s tender photograph of his mother taken in the fifties. In the picture, she is making tea in the scullery of Victoria Dwellings, the tenement where he grew up but which the family left when Finsbury Council rehoused them in the newly-built Michael Cliffe House. This early photograph witnesses another world to that of Colin’s recent portrait of Jasmine Stone and her little daughter, taken when they were evicted from a hostel in Newham last year and occupied an empty Council House as a protest against the disposal of social housing by the Local Authority.

At this current moment of unprecedented change, when much of the history of the capital is threatening with being erased by redevelopment, Colin O’Brien’s LONDON LIFE is an important book that grants us a necessary perspective in time, reminding us of the journey that we – as Londoners – travelled to get here.

As with our other titles, I need to gather a group of readers who are willing to invest £1000 each. Please email if you would like to help bring this exciting project to fruition and I will send you further information.

Additionally, you can support publication by pre-ordering LONDON LIFE from the Spitalfields Life Online Bookshop and we will send you a signed copy in June with a complimentary copy of Colin’s previous book, TRAVELLERS’ CHILDREN IN LONDON FIELDS as a gesture of appreciation.

Colin’s mother makes tea in the scullery in Victoria Dwellings, Clerkenwell

Raymond Scallionne & Razi Tuffano, Hatton Garden in 1948

Daytime accident in Clerkenwell, 1957

Snow in Clerkenwell on New Year’s Eve, 1961

Piccadilly Circus at night, 1959

Colin’s mother tries on hats in Oxford St in the fifties

Playing on a bombsite in the City of London

Oxford St at Christmas

Safeway Supermarket in the sixties

Battersea with the power station in the distance, sixties

Kids skylarking in the seventies

Regents Canal, Hackney

Brick Lane Market, eighties

Ice Cream kids, eighties

On Chatsworth Rd, eighties

Diana Dead, nineties

Demolishing a tower block in Hackney, 1999

Baby at a fair in Victoria Park

The last day of Clerkenwell Fire Station, 2014

Speakers’ Corner, 2014

Spitalfields Nativity 2014

Jasmine Stone, Focus E15 Mothers, Newham 2014

Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien

If you would like to help me publish LONDON LIFE, a monograph of Colin O’Brien’s photographs from 1948 until the present day, please drop me a line at

Click to pre-order a copy of Colin O’Brien’s LONDON LIFE published by Spitalfields Life

Click here to see over fifty stories that Colin has photographed for Spitalfields Life

8 Responses leave one →
  1. March 15, 2015

    Outstanding. A wonderful record.

  2. March 15, 2015

    Would be worth to become a good book!

    Love & Peace

  3. Teresa Stokes permalink
    March 15, 2015

    The Speaker’s Corner chap is my Bayswater neighbour, Bob Rogers. When not off on holday (as he is now) he goes every Sunday. I look forward to showing him this when he gets back! Says the notice is there just to attract people to come and chat about it, but I don’t think it is really supposed to mean anything!

  4. March 15, 2015

    great photos don’t forget a photograph is a time machine for the mind .what worries me is most of the future memories are being taken on digital ,and what happens when you die and all the computer discs (if they still work)get chucked in the skip with all your unwanted belongings .all of what we look at from the past was taken on film and that’s why it lasts ..I shoot everything on film mostly B/W ,I store the negatives in negative files and all my prints are safe in boxes ,and all the photographs on my website are taken on film color or black and white ,,color negatives I develop and scan,, the B/W I develop the negatives and print and scan the prints ,social history is very important it must be saved for the future …………………………………………………..

  5. March 15, 2015

    Looking forward to this.

  6. Jax Atkins permalink
    March 28, 2015

    Looks amazing – a social history of the life in Spitalfields, such a wonderful legacy to have when all around has changed. I have already pre-ordered a copy for myself & am now going to get another as a for my daughter.

  7. Shawdiane permalink
    April 15, 2015

    Astonishing photos of diminishing London Life. Soon it will be COMMUTER LAND.
    Brilliant book that I would be proud to add to my book collection.

  8. David Priest permalink
    September 23, 2015

    I have just brought up your web page on Old London I have ventured into writing a story of my 84yrs of life as I remember it for it Great and Grandchildren maybe there is something in it that might be of interest to you regards david

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