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Thierry Girard’s East End, 1976

September 20, 2016
by the gentle author

Today it is my pleasure to show these previously unseen photographs by Thierry Girard, taken in the East End in 1976 and now the subject of a new book published by Cafe Royal Books

“More than simply pictures from my early years as a photographer, these are the starting point of my photographic work. At the beginning of 1976, when I was twenty-four, I had just graduated from Paris Institute of Political Studies and I had no specific idea about my future. I was very interested in photography, I bought my first photography books and I went to exhibitions, but I had very little experience.

At that time, my interest was in British photography and photographs taken in Britain by foreigners. I was an Anglophile. I was fond of Bill Brandt’s work, of course, and I was familiar with the photographs of Tony Ray-Jones, Homer Sykes and David Hurn  – but the real catalyst was to be Robert Frank’s portfolio of London & Wales published in the 1975 edition of the Creative Camera International Yearbook. Knowing London rather well —I had stayed there several times in the previous years— I immediately related to the atmosphere of Frank’s pictures.

So I decided to go back to London for a challenge, a rite of initiation: to face the outside world and do photography. I stayed in the East End where I had lived as a student, although I did not intend to do a reportage about the East End or Eastenders. I just wanted to walk for hours and days in, snatching bits of life, passing through dilapidated districts, pushing doors of pubs, rambling through markets and playing with kids. I spent time with a wonderful couple, clever and cheerful people, but living in poverty in a damp basement flat while sewing ties for chic French companies. At lunchtime or in the evenings I went to strip pubs. The people attending the shows, both men and women, were locals.

I hope these photographs made in London in 1976 are worth revisiting. Very few of these pictures have ever been published or exhibited, but what I did there at the time has been decisive for my future as a photographer.” – Thierry Girard

At the Elephant, Dalston

In Brick Lane

At the Elephant, Dalston

In Bethnal Green

Alan B, homeworker in Graham Rd, Hackney

In Mare St

In Wapping

In Ridley Rd Market

In Dalston

Betty & Penny B, Graham Rd, Hackney

In Hackney

At Limehouse Social Club

In Wapping

At Limehouse Social Club

In Bethnal Green

In Tower Hamlets

In Hackney

In Hackney

Hackney Empire

Photographs copyright © Thierry Girard

Click here to buy a copy of Thierry Girard’s EAST END ’76, POPLAR & HACKNEY from Cafe Royal Books for £6

You may also like to take a look at

Market Luskacova’s Brick Lane

Homer Sykes Spitalfields

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields

Val Perrin’s Spitalfields

Sarah Ainslie’s Brick Lane

David Hoffman’s East End

Colin O’Brien’s Brick Lane

Malcolm Tremaine’s Spitalfields

Daniele Lamarche’s East End

13 Responses leave one →
  1. Greg Tingey permalink
    September 20, 2016

    1970’s in inner E London … the utter pits, I remember it well.
    The Docks had closed, other firms were all moving out & “Canary Wharf” hadn’t even started.
    To all who object to “gentrification” – I say look at these pictures.
    I also remember how Canonbury & Islington looked, about 1958 – all those beautiful houses, derelict & rotting. Look at them now!

  2. Malcolm permalink
    September 20, 2016

    These pictures are yet another reminder of just how dilapidated London had become in the 1970’s. There is an air of desperation and despondency in these streets and yet the people still managed to smile (sometimes). I knew these places as they are depicted here and I remember the prevailing sense of emptiness in these streets, especially at the weekend when everything was closed. Thierry has captured some great images here.

  3. September 20, 2016

    Poverty, squalor, exploitation. This guy doesn’t pull his punches. The girl being mauled by drunken men doesn’t even seem bothered. Despite some cheeky faces and the warmth in one or two pictures here, the lack of sentiment reveals a seedy, harsh reality. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable at the Elephant. If I had accidently ended up in there, I’d have run a mile!

    Powerful, disturbing stuff.

  4. Ros permalink
    September 20, 2016

    Very glad these have been given an airing. They document hard lives and a hard environment – some are really sobering while others shine with humour and vitality.

  5. September 20, 2016

    I recall Hackney and Dalston like this. I don’t think it is missed. Mind you, I don’t think that the present version is particularly laudable, price-wise. I wonder if there could be a middle ground?

  6. Nick permalink
    September 20, 2016

    fascinating, those local to east london easy to recognise these places

  7. September 20, 2016

    Great pictures – love the milk bottles and whitewashed window.
    Also the strip club – unusual photo to get.


  8. September 20, 2016

    Marvelous photographs that capture the spirit of the times.

  9. ROBERT GREEN permalink
    September 20, 2016

    Back in the 70s when these photos were taken I along with my Father would quite regularly walk all the way through from Dalston, Hackney then up to Bethnal Green and eventually make our way back to Upton Park, we would start off in the afternoon and get back late in the evening, in those days we would think nothing of walking through the streets of Dalston and Hackney at night in the dark now I feel uneasy even walking through there in broad daylight, post code gang wars, stabbings, shootings muggings drug crazed nutters roaming the streets people living in houses with bars up the doors and windows in a self imposed prison, yes how society has ADVANCED since those grim days of the 1970s, and the shops ! ! just imagine the shops being closed on a Sunday and all those quiet empty streets, good grief, just the mear thought of it is a prospect almost worse than death itself, yes good riddance to those grim days of the past I say, full speed ahead to the drug fueld crime ridden utopia our esteemed leaders are busy creating for our future.

  10. pauline taylor permalink
    September 20, 2016

    An extreme example of social deprivation captured by a camera lens, just makes me say praise be that I didn’t have to live there then.

  11. September 22, 2016

    Fascinating stuff. As a child, I lived in Tottenham, very near to the East End. My immediate family had been domiciled there as immigrants. I still had family living there until about ten years ago. In the 80s I lived and worked in the East End. It wasn’t so bad then of course, but there was still plenty of poverty, deprivation and crime. But everyone just got on with life and survived. I loved it’s vibrancy and diversity.

    I would like to use one of the images on my website. My life as a stripperin the 70s is partly recounted in my book ‘Rebel Without a Clue’, so the picture of the old lady outside a club/pub would be perfect. Is that OK with The Gentle Author?

  12. James permalink
    September 22, 2016

    It wasn’t as grim as some of the comments suggest. London then as now was an exciting place to live, and to be honest it felt like a more socially mobile world. Education was free, and the new “red brick” universities offered opportunities to many who wouldn’t have such choices before. There were run down parts, but it didn’t feel dangerous to me, and people were pretty friendly. There was social housing, and if you were in your mid twenties and lucky enough to have a reasonably well paid job, you could buy somewhere without taking on a mortgage the size of Jupiter. Around this time I bought a run down flat in a mansion block off Highbury Corner for £27,000 approx (if memory serves). Obviously the economy then as now was in a dire state, with the added problem of rampant inflation, & the horrors of the Thatcher years were just around the next corner, but it wasn’t such a bad time, just one with different problems.

  13. Martin Ling permalink
    September 25, 2016

    The poster outside the pub advertising the Sunday lunchtime entertainment is interesting. Younger readers may not be aware that there was a time when pubs only opened from around 12 till 2 on a Sunday and for some pubs it was one of the busiest sessions of the week. It was often a male affair with a few pints sunk before returning home for Sunday roast. I think all day Sunday opening was introduced in August 1995.

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