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More Philip Cunningham Portraits

January 30, 2017
by the gentle author

More East End portraits of friends and colleagues taken by Philip Cunningham in the seventies and eighties while he was living in his grandfather’s house in Mile End Place and beginning his career as a photographer, youth worker and teacher.

Printer at the Surma newspaper, Brick Lane. The paper supported Sheikh Mujibur Rahman & the Awami League.

Porters at Spitalfields Market c.1978

Porters at Spitalfields Market c.1978

Boys on wasteland, Whitechapel c.1977

My friends Sadie & Murat Ozturk ran the kebab shop on Mile End Rd. Their daughter Aysher was best friends with my daughter and both went to John Scurr School. We spent alternate Christmases at each others’ home until they returned to Turkey. They were very hard-working and I hope they have prospered. c.1978

Engineers in the Mile End Automatic Laundry. It was a fantastic facility for people like us, with just an outside toilet and a butler’s sink in the kitchen. It had machines to iron your sheets which was a palaver, but everyone used to help each another. c.1975

Jan Alam & Union Steward, Raj Jalal on an Anti-Fascist march in Whitechapel

Chris Carpenter & Jim Wolveridge on Mile End Waste. My long-time friend Chris was a teacher at John Scurr School who went to Zimbabwe to teach for a number of years. When he arrived there were very few books in the School, but oddly there was one called ‘Ain’t It Grand’ by Jim Wolveridge. How it got there nobody could explain. Jim Wolveridge used to have a second hand book stall on the Waste every Saturday. In this photo, Chris is telling him about finding his book in his school in Zimbabwe. c.1985

My photography student Rodney at Deptford Green Youth Centre would often say ‘Hush up & listen to the Teach!’

Michael Rosen and Nik Chakraborty both taught my daughter at John Scurr School. c.1979

Photography students at Deptford Green Youth Centre. They were eager to learn and I hope they’ve all done well. c.1979

My friend and colleague, Caroline Merion at Tower Hamlets Local History Library where she spent most of her time. I went to her house once or twice and I noticed she had a habit of hoarding bags. c.1979

Harry Watton worked in the Local History Library in Bancroft Rd for many years. He was always helpful and had an immense knowledge about Tower Hamlets. c.1979

The Rev David Moore from the Bow Mission and Santiago Bell, an exile from Pinochet’s Chile who was a ceramicist and wood carver. He taught David to carve and, on retirement, David built himself a studio and has been carving ever since. This picture was taken at the opening of Bow Single Homeless & Alcoholic Rehabilitation Project and the carving, which was the work of both David and Santiago, depicts the journey of rehabilitation. c.1986

Builders at Oxford House. c.1978

Gasmen at Mile End Place, 1977

Harry Diamond at a beer festival at Stepping Stones Farm Stepney. After I left art school in 1978,  I met Harry at Camerawork in Alie St. He was always generous with his knowledge of photography and, after talking to him, I changed the type of film I was using. Harry was famously painted by Lucien Freud standing next to a pot plant, but when I asked Harry what he thought of Lucien, he did not have a high opinion of the great artist. c.1978

Teacher Martin Cale and Bob the School-keeper (an ex-docker) at John Scurr School. c.1978

At Hungerford Bridge, I came across this man in a doorway. He was not yet asleep so I asked if I could take his photo. ‘If you give me a cigarette,’ he said. ‘I only smoke rollups,’ I replied. ‘That’ll do.’ I rolled him a cigarette then took his portrait. c.1978

Photographs copyright © Philip Cunningham

You may also like to take a look at

Philip Cunningham’s East End Portraits

Philip Cunningham at Mile End Place

15 Responses leave one →
  1. January 30, 2017

    Every picture tells a story. Valerie

  2. stuart goodman permalink
    January 30, 2017

    beautiful gentle storytelling.

  3. January 30, 2017

    Wonderful moments in time. Good to see a very hairy Michael Rosen.

  4. Ros permalink
    January 30, 2017

    Lovely accounts and photos. Have things got better or worse?

  5. Bob Davenport permalink
    January 30, 2017

    Lovely pictures – and more examples of exuberant trouserage (© Jim McDermott). At the time I couldn’t understand why M&S didn’t recognise flares as the Platonic ideal of gents’ lower-limb covering; whereas now …

  6. Rod permalink
    January 30, 2017

    Always a treat to spend time in yesteryear

  7. John Rowe permalink
    January 31, 2017

    Good to see faces from the past. The woman steward with Jan Alam and Jalal Uddin is Libby Crowley I think.

    Someone should have written a book about Harry Diamond, an old school Soho character who used to drink in the Five Bells and Bladebone in Limehouse (and many other places).he was quite poor when he died but his pictures must have been worth something. Wonder where they are now.

  8. February 5, 2017

    Great photos. Memories of the 1970s here.

  9. Malcolm Barr-Hamilton permalink
    February 8, 2017

    Very good pictures. Good to see those of Tower Hamlets Local History Library. Harry Watton showed me round prior to my interview for a job there back in 1995. A charming man. Sadly he retired before I joined but he continues to send things for the collection. Caroline Merion continued to be a regular until 7 or 8 years ago. Does anyone know what happened to her?

  10. February 15, 2017

    Caroline Merion lived near Oxford House with the Council Tree Officer, Claude. He was very fond of her, and would often call her his “wonderful lively spirit”. The roof of their house was shot away and I don’t know how they stayed there. She lived on a very small allowance from America, in dollars, I seem to remember. When Claude died I think she was more or less thrown onto the streets.We had moved by then and it was some time before we found out, we would have certainly tried to help her. I hope she found a safe berth.

  11. Gill permalink
    February 20, 2017

    I love looking at these photos – especially those of the old market where my dad worked as a salesman for many years, first at Killingbacks and then for Tunnards. Today amazingly I discovered that I know Philip Cunningham – but had never made the connection. Can’t wait to see some more photos

  12. James Gibbs permalink
    April 13, 2018

    Great picture of Moore and Bell. Their work will be shown together at Victoria Methodist Church, Bristol, soon. Exhibition title: Grains of Truth.

  13. Gail Williams permalink
    August 5, 2020

    Wonderful to see these old photos and some very familiar faces. I started teaching at John Scurr school in 1973 and taught Phil’s daughter when she was very young. Along with my teaching buddy, Chris we spent a lovely evening at Mile End Place and if I remember rightly, Phil, who was an excellent cook, produced a delicious stuffed neck of lamb with apricots. Lovely people, lovely times. Thanks so much for publishing these photos.

  14. Ali permalink
    April 7, 2022

    Wow! Seeing my old headteacher Nik Chakrabhorty takes me back many decades. Every few years I’ll Google to see if I can connect with him or someone that knows him. No luck so far.

    He was an amazing headteacher alongside Tina and hope they each had a wonderful life after leaving.

  15. Ayse ‘Aysher’ permalink
    May 30, 2022

    Thank you for sharing these memories! My parents look great in that picture and were so happy when I showed them! I hope you and Sally and Andrea are well – it would be great to meet to reminisce over old times and catch up with new times even if virtually…I have never forgotten the friendship and warmth of your family. I tell my children about my days in Stepney, my lovely friend Andrea and your storybook home.

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