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Thierry Girard’s East End, 1976

May 23, 2020
by the gentle author

Today it is my pleasure to show these photographs by Thierry Girard from 1976

“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

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

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    May 23, 2020

    Incredible to think that these photos were taken less than 50 years ago…

  2. Feds permalink
    May 23, 2020

    Bonkers, love seeing bits of an older London

  3. May 23, 2020

    Brilliant. There is a Hogarthian quality to the pub scenes and the tie maker (sadly, shamefully) a situation Mayhew would have recognised. I hope that things improved for this couple.

    On a lighter note, I smiled to see the arcane art of “drinking from a pint pot with a cigarette in the same hand” demonstrated. Fond memories (the demon cigs went years ago!) For me it involved extra caution due to the prodigious quantity of hairspray in use.


  4. May 23, 2020

    It’s another world. How quickly things change. Poignant pictures.

  5. paul loften permalink
    May 23, 2020

    I knew all these pubs from Dalston to Tottenham as they were in the 1960’s. It was the time of the Wilson government.I was a Young Socialist schoolboy and we went in pairs round the pubs on the round to sell the Keep Left paper to the locals. I was probably just below the legal age of admission but generally, the landlords allowed us to approach the tables and chat with the drinkers. The pubs were not nice middle-class places but I feel Thierry has sought to depict a rather depraved and coarse image of the area. the pubs were really working class and most of the locals thought we were selling the “War Cry” which was the Salvation Army paper. Sometimes we had some very good political discussions with the drinkers and other times we were shouted at insulted and threatened. I left the Young Socialists in 1968 but I still knew the pubs in the area in the ’70s and some had descended into live striptease, live bands, and stand up comedy. Many pubs remained as traditional sawdust on the floor drinking and social pubs but the clientele were generally, decent working-class people who were there for a drink a chat or to play at the pool table or have a game of darts and would have never been seen in such raucous and bawdy establishments, leering at strippers

  6. May 23, 2020

    Thanks for publishing these marvellous photographs.

  7. May 23, 2020

    Superb photographs: sharp-angled compositions fizzing with energy. For many years I have owned Thierry Girard’s book of images along the Flanders coast and around Dunkirk, published in 1982: marvellous work of the same order. A book of his Hackney photographs would be sensational.

  8. May 23, 2020

    So Dark, Sad and Bleak. We need to keep these pictures to remember.???

  9. May 24, 2020

    Some great photographs, that I have never seen, it is amazing how so much has changed and as someone else wrote in less than 50 yrs. I guess that really is the most important aspect of documentary photography.

  10. John Walton permalink
    April 21, 2022

    Some interesting images of Ridley Road market and its environs too, taken at a time when Hackney (mid 70s) was an area most, if they could, looked to leave but despite this it was always a good trading borough with some great locally based industries (textiles) and local markets like Ridley, Broadway, and Well Street.

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