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Israel Bidermanas’ London

January 16, 2017
by the gentle author

Lithuanian-born Israel Bidermanas (1911-1980) first achieved recognition under the identity of Izis for his portraits of members of  the French resistance that he took while in hiding near Limoges at the time of the German invasion. Encouraged by Brassai, he pursued a career as a professional photographer in peacetime, fulfilling commissions for Paris Match and befriending Jacques Prévert and Marc Chagall. He and Prévert were inveterate urban wanderers and in 1952 they published ‘Charmes de Londres,’ delivering this vivid and poetic vision of the shabby old capital in the threadbare post-war years.

In the cemetery of St John, Wapping

Milk cart in Gordon Sq, Bloomsbury

At Club Row animal market, Spitalfields

The Nag’s Head, Kinnerton St, W1

In Pennyfields, Limehouse

Palace St, Westminster

Ties on sale in Ming St, Limehouse

Greengrocer, Kings Rd, Chelsea

Diver in the London Docks

Organ Grinder, Shaftesbury Ave, Piccadilly

Sphinx, Chiswick Park

Hampden Crescent, W2

Underhill Passage, Camden Town

Braithwaite Arches, Wheler St, Spitalfields

East India Dock Rd, Limehouse

Musical instrument seller, Petticoat Lane

Grosvenor Crescent Mews, Hyde Park Corner

Unloading in the London Docks

London Electricity Board Apprentices

On the waterfront at Greenwich

Tower Bridge

Photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

Harold Burdekin’s London Nights

Roland Collins’ London

John Claridge’s East End

Marketa Luskacova’s Brick Lane

13 Responses leave one →
  1. January 16, 2017

    Such a brilliant photographer, Bob Mazzer has a similar eye I think

  2. Jim McDermott permalink
    January 16, 2017

    Another beautiful set. It may be something about the photos’ processing, but if the one with the spivs’ ties had been omitted I’d have guessed that they were from the 1930’s, not the immediate post-war period.

  3. Sue permalink
    January 16, 2017

    What wonderful photos!
    And when was the last time you saw small boys up trees?

  4. January 16, 2017

    I do not have an artistic vocabulary to explain why but there is a European sensibility here. Composition? Lenses? Filters? Whatever, they have a very stylish dramatic quality. A very charming addition to the wide range of photographs you keep bringing to the attention of you readers.

  5. January 16, 2017

    Great short article, better yet are the photographs of old areas, which in my mind’s way of comparing old photos parts of a city, the wharf, along waterways, these remind me of St. Louis MO. USA old wharf on the MS 1970- before the old historical area was torn down. Joke, amusement for the visitors, The St. Louis Arch???

  6. January 16, 2017

    This post starts off with an irresistible image (the couple on the carousel) and then EACH additional photo is a show stopper. An incredible suite of images, provoking rampant stories.
    What an incredible gritty eternal city!? He’s captured it.
    Many thanks.

  7. January 16, 2017

    Wonderful, impressive photos!

    Love & Peace

  8. Jude permalink
    January 16, 2017

    I can see why he was a professional photographer and i’m not!! Such amazing, provocative images. Thank you.

  9. pauline taylor permalink
    January 16, 2017

    Black and white photography at its best !! True no doubt, as there is so much that falls into that category in your posts. These are truly brilliant and capture London at that time so well.

  10. John Campbell permalink
    January 16, 2017

    Wonderful photos. The picture of Hampden Crescent W2 is very evocative of Roger Mayne,s photographs in nearby Southam St W10.

  11. Valerie Paynter permalink
    January 16, 2017

    Right up until the 1980’s we used to have slow and gorgeous b&w film that gave creamy, grainy, hard contrast, soft contrast, fine grain, whatever quality you wanted – AGFA did a 25 ASA. I preferred Kodak 32 – now we have photoshop and quick-fire photography. All those gorgeous films are gone. I’m glad photos from the heyday of photography as a fine craft with fine materials and lenses exist to shame the present. Maybe I am too cynical about that.

    These photos are so evocative of London at its moodiest and most secretive. Right up to my 1969 arrival in London you could see traces of all this, rent unmodernised and seriously shabby huge flats in SW5 (flatshare social life was great). But on the train through the outskirts going to Sussex I used to feel there was a lot of filthy, scary stuff lining the suburban streets the line out of Victoria would pass, visible from windows as we clackety clacked along – the smell of those old trains unforgettable….but everyone seated….always.

  12. January 16, 2017

    Wonderful, inspired photos, each one a masterpiece in its own right. Valerie

  13. Nicky Webb permalink
    January 17, 2017

    Wonderful, evocative photos. But oh, I’d love to see Prevert’s words too!

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