Skip to content

Phil Maxwell’s Kids on The Street

April 27, 2020
by the gentle author

In Spelman St

Photographer Phil Maxwell has taken more pictures on Brick Lane than anyone in the past thirty years. These vibrant images of children running free upon the streets of Spitalfields are selected from his vast personal archive held at the Bishopsgate Institute. “Most of these pictures are twenty to thirty years old.” he admitted to me, “There aren’t any contemporary photographs because I don’t take pictures of kids these days, not least because there aren’t any on the street anymore.”

Phil’s lively photographs are evidence that – not so long ago – the streets of Spitalfields belonged to children, offering them an extended playground, including the market, waste land and derelict houses, where they roamed without adult supervision.

“When I first started taking photographs in Liverpool, the children in the street would demand that I take their photographs but that wouldn’t happen today.” Phil recalled, “In those days, children were a constant presence upon the streets in every city, playing their games and enjoying themselves. In the East End in particular, a lot of children played on the street because they lived in restricted conditions – so the street was the space where they were free to run around and discover things.”

In Swanfield St

On Brick Lane

On Brick Lane

In Commercial St

On Brick Lane

In Hanbury St

On Brick Lane

In Cheshire St

In Bethnal Green Rd

On Brick Lane

On Whitechapel Rd

On Brick Lane

In Buxton St

In Arnold Circus

In Cheshire St

On Brick Lane

Photographs copyright © Phil Maxwell

Follow Phil Maxwell’s photo blog

See more of Phil Maxwell’s work here

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

The Cat Lady of Spitalfields

Phil Maxwell, Photographer

Phil Maxwell & Sandra Esqulant, Photographer & Muse

Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies

More of Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies

Phil Maxwell’s Old Ladies in Colour

Phil Maxwell on the Tube

Phil Maxwell at the Spitalfields Market

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    April 27, 2020

    Great photos as always from Phil.

    I’d love to know what is happening in the picture of the boys on the swings with a mass of the Old Bill in the background…? Preparing for a Poll Tax riot perhaps??

  2. Chris Webb permalink
    April 27, 2020

    Are we breeding agoraphobics these days?

    Photo 7: Parkers or snorkel jackets, came in blue or green with a bright orange lining. Everyone had one, usually accompanied by an Adidas sports bag the size of a Transit van.

    I really hope someone pops along to say “That’s me”.

  3. April 27, 2020

    Thank You for These Lovely, Pictures of these Sweet Children. I do Enjoy Them So Much!!????????

  4. Chris permalink
    April 27, 2020

    Great photos Phil

  5. April 27, 2020

    Wonderful and fine observations as allways!

    Love & Peace

  6. April 27, 2020

    I had an instantaneous reaction to this wonderful series, and it came with a soundtrack:

    “FAME! I’m gonna live forever. I’m gonna learn how to fly. …….. Ba-by remember my
    name. Remember. Remember.”

    Thank you for this joyous, buoyant, jubilant series of photos. Really lifted my spirits today.

  7. Grace Caruso permalink
    April 27, 2020

    The pictures are as usual wonderful and evocative… but what strikes me first its the difference between the way the children are dressed in these pictures and the way the are dressed in older pictures. Very much a change.

  8. April 27, 2020

    Beautiful photographs, and every one of them telling its own story. Thank you.

  9. Betsy Brewer permalink
    April 28, 2020

    Very few girls on the street, very much a boy’s world.

    Line of police near swings-about to protect an NF march down Brick Lane perhaps?

  10. David Green permalink
    May 7, 2020

    This photographer has a remarkable talent. While I like a lot of the images you have on your blog, as a photographer myself I think his are ‘next level’ in terms of composition and content. He distills the scene in front of him perfectly.

Leave a Reply

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

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS