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David Hoffman At St Botolph’s In Colour

March 21, 2015
by the gentle author

Contributing Photographer David Hoffman sent me this dramatic set of photographs that he took at the ‘wet shelter’ for homeless people – where alcohol and drugs were permitted – in the crypt of St Botolph’s Church, Aldgate, in the seventies. Readers may recall David’s series of black and white pictures of St Botolph’s shelter that I published over a year ago, recording Rev Malcolm Johnson’s compassionate initiative offering refuge to the dispossessed without distinction.

These colour photographs make a fascinating contrast to the monochrome realism of David’s earlier series, offering a distinctive vision of the same subject that is both more emotive and visceral, yet also more painterly and even lyrical.

“These were shots undertaken as tests as much as documenting the wet crypt. The light was a mix of coloured fluorescent tubes and tungsten bulbs, and the types of film available that were sensitive enough to use in this relatively-dark environment also varied a lot in their sensitivity to different-coloured lighting – all of which made for unpredictable results as I moved around, and the push-processing required gave a lot of grain which cut down the sharpness I could achieve.

In those days, I was keen to show off my technical skills and didn’t really like the effect – so I quickly gave up using colour and returned to black and white. But, looking back at these pictures now, I wonder what I was thinking. I find the colour shifts and graininess quite gorgeous and I regret not taking the idea further.”

– David Hoffman

Photographs copyright © David Hoffman

You may like to take a look at these other stories about St Botolph’s

David Hoffman at St Botolph’s

Rev Malcolm Johnson at St Botolph’s

and explore these other sets of pictures by David Hoffman

David Hoffman at Fieldgate Mansions

David Hoffman at Crisis At Christmas

David Hoffman at Smithfield Market

David Hoffman down the Roman Rd

4 Responses leave one →
  1. frank hadley permalink
    March 21, 2015

    what a wonderful man rev. johnson is helping the unfortunate souls, as i used to live nearby and would go to the crypt club in the 60s as it was a youth club to keep us kids off the streets and meet other people. i am glad that when the youth club ended it was put to good use as a refuge.aldgate has changed a lot since the 60s

  2. March 21, 2015

    A thought-provoking report – very good dramatic photographs!

    Love & Peace

  3. March 21, 2015

    Darkly eerie and yet equally transparent. How David Hoffman has captured the essence of these of these souls. I’m left wondering about their individual stories. Just pleased they had the shelter to go to.

  4. Gary Arber permalink
    March 21, 2015

    To get those results with 1970’s colour in a crypt with mixed lighting shows David’s expertise, Brilliant work !

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