Skip to content

The Old Ladies Of Whitechapel

June 22, 2016
by the gentle author

East End Film Festival is hosting a screening of Phil Maxwell’s films this Sunday 26th June at 4pm at Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Rd, E1 6LA. Click here for tickets

Phil Maxwell’s BRICK LANE photo exhibition opens at the new gallery at The Archers, 42 Osborne St, E1 6TD also this Sunday 26th June and runs until July 10th. You are all invited to the opening all day on Sunday 26th from 1pm onwards. Please RSVP to attend.

Photographing daily on the streets of Spitalfields and Whitechapel for the last thirty years, Phil Maxwell has taken hundreds of pictures of old ladies, of which I publish a selection of favourites here today.

Some of these photos of old ladies were taken over twenty years ago and a couple were taken this spring, revealing both the continuity of their presence and the extraordinary tenacity for life demonstrated by these proud specimens of the female sex in the East End. Endlessly these old ladies trudge the streets with trolleys and bags, going about their business in all weathers, demonstrating an indomitable spirit as the world changes around them, and becoming beloved sentinels of the territory.

“As a street photographer, you cannot help but take photos of these ladies.” Phil admitted, speaking with heartfelt tenderness for his subjects, “In a strange kind of way, they embody the spirit of the street because they’ve been treading the same paths for decades and seen all the changes. They have an integrity that a youth or a skateboarder can’t have, which comes from their wealth of experience and, living longer than men, they become the guardians of the life of the street.”

“Some are so old that you have an immediate respect for them. These are women who have worked very hard all their lives and you can see it etched on their faces, but what some would dismiss as the marks of old age I would describe as the beauty of old age. The more lines they have, the more beautiful they are to me. You can just see that so many stories and secrets are contained by those well-worn features.”

“I remember my darkroom days with great affection, because there was nothing like the face of an old lady emerging from the negative in the darkroom developer – it was as if they were talking to me as their faces began to appear. There is a magnificence to them.”

Photographs copyright © Phil Maxwell

See more of Phil Maxwell’s work here

Phil Maxwell on the Tube

Phil Maxwell & Sandra Esqulant, Photographer & Muse

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

The Cat Lady of Spitalfields

Phil Maxwell, Photographer

10 Responses leave one →
  1. ROBERT GREEN permalink
    June 22, 2016

    Some familiar face’s hear, the lady pushing the shopping trolley in the 6th photo is a woman I used to see every Sunday in Sclater St market until relatively recent years when she suddenly disappear’d, photo 15 is Mrs Power, her family used to run a stall in Sclater St selling pet food, bird seed mostly right up until the late 1980s, her family member Albert Power was born in Sclater St in the late 1890s they also had a shop there in one of the old weavers cottages (now demolished) in the next photo, 16 the woman on the left is someone I know very well, she still comes down the market but not so often as she use to, there are quiet a few others hear that I know but I won’t bore on (to much) what I like about these photos is there very natural, hardly any of the people in them are posing and many are obviously completely unaware their even being photographed at all which makes them all the more important because they capture a snapshot of people innocently going about their business and just doing what they do which then gives the viewer the opportunity to gain an incite into what their daily lives are really like and that’s good photography, good luck with the film show at Rich Mix, pity it’s on a Sunday because I’ll be stuck round the corner in the next street while it’s going on ! !

  2. June 22, 2016

    I love Phil’s photos of people, and the wealth of expressions he captures; each photo tells its own story. Valerie

  3. June 22, 2016

    Great photos. Only thing is a couple of them don’t look like old ladles at all. I think pic 33 or thereabouts, the rather handsome black or mix raced women, looks to be in her 50s.

  4. Alison Ashfield permalink
    June 22, 2016

    Ah…on their shoulders, metaphorically, we stand.
    Life-etched faces
    Grandma-gentle hand.

  5. June 22, 2016

    What a great bunch!
    More love for old ladies!

  6. June 22, 2016

    Some older ladies live in their world of long ago, coming out, to do the shopping and socialize. Many live active lives well into their nineties as volunteers (men also). These ladies were young once most served in WW.2 on the London front line during the blitzkrieg, in shadow factory’s and most occupations men did. Releasing men and remembering some women including our Queen, served in the armed forces. So woman then were the mainstay of our society. Thanks to GA, Phil and Fixers United a job well done. John

  7. June 22, 2016

    Lovely pictures of Lovely Old Ladies!

    Love & Peace

  8. Denise Bryant permalink
    June 22, 2016

    Hello Gentle Author

    George Eliot knew these women well and wrote of them in loving truthfulness in earlier times
    thus :

    ” for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts ;
    and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been ,
    is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life ,
    and rest in unvisited tombs.”

    There is no vanity or hypocrisy in the faces of the working class …

  9. David Davies permalink
    June 22, 2016

    These old dears each have a story to tell. A very moving collection.

  10. June 23, 2016

    Wonderful monochrome street photography of older women. All so expressive!

Leave a Reply

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

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS