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Outtakes Of A Press Photographer

September 13, 2020
by the gentle author

When Libby Hall was a press photographer in the sixties, based in Clerkenwell and travelling back and forth from her home in Clapton, she occasionally photographed her immediate surroundings as a diversion from her daily work. Yet half a century later these almost inconsequential outtakes have transformed into a powerful evocation of a lost era.

Libby Hall’s desk In Farringdon Rd

‘These photographs were mostly just lens tests, or moments of light that appealed to me on my journeys back and forth to work as a press photographer. The bookstalls were immediately across the street from the newspaper I worked for. I do miss those wonderful bookstalls even though they used up a considerable chunk of my then meagre wages. It was impossible to pass by without having a look – but then what treasures there were to be found!’ – Libby Hall

Looking down onto Farringdon Rd

Looking across to Turnmills St, Clerkenwell Session House and Booth’s Gin Distillery

Bookstalls in Farringdon Rd

Farringdon Station

Liverpool St Station

Clapton Station

Photographs copyright © Libby Hall

You may also like to take a look at

Libby’s Hall’s Collection of Dog Photography

Libby Hall’s Dogs of Old London

22 Responses leave one →
  1. Maurice permalink
    September 13, 2020

    These photos are truly fantastic especially the ones of Clapton station.

  2. September 13, 2020

    A beautiful set of photographs, Libby, potently evoking another era: the vast, crass billboards; the homely signs. Queenies Corner; Gentlemen’s Hairdressing – 6 Assistants. And details of a daily routine: jagged valences on a station canopy, papers on the desk of a busy journalist, browsing books on barrows at lunchtime. Did you know fellow book scavengers Iain Sinclair and Martin Stone?

  3. September 13, 2020

    I just LOVE the photographs of the bookstalls.

  4. Gilbert OBrien permalink
    September 13, 2020

    Ah, the memories. The photos look like the pictures in my imagination. All those books in the Farringdon Road — all those happy hours browsing — all gone. This collection of pictures was especially moving for me.

  5. Greg T permalink
    September 13, 2020

    How much has changed – and some parts that have not …
    The “Castle” in Turnmill/Cowcross Street is still there.
    That pub is unique, by the way – does anyone else here, know why?
    The clue is on the outside of the building.
    … and visible in this google view

  6. September 13, 2020

    Beautiful photos – the book stalls especially.

  7. Sally Jeffery permalink
    September 13, 2020

    In the 1960s there was a cork dealer with a small dusty shop and office on the east side of Farringdon Road – just north of Ray Street bridge I think. If you wandered in, drawn by the window display of cork artefacts and great lumps of cork bark, the solitary old man inside would detain you if he could with a party trick. On a small block of cork he would make a succession of swift incisions at different angles with a blade, then tap the base and present the result with a flourish. There was now a carved relief design on top. I accumulated two. Perhaps Libby remembers him?

  8. parktown permalink
    September 13, 2020

    @Greg T,
    … and visible in this google view
    Cannot see the google view.
    Cannot *see* the river either.

  9. andrew l permalink
    September 13, 2020

    I wonder who bought ‘Camera Pictures of Malta’ (surely: photos?) and who even published ‘Souvenir of Croydon’?!

  10. Richard Smith permalink
    September 13, 2020

    A very interesting collection of photographs GA, thank you. I like the fact that there appears to be a Rolls – Royce parked outside the Gin Distillery.

  11. Lucy F permalink
    September 13, 2020

    Loved seeing the bookstalls. They were just about still there when I moved to London and every time I cycle by Farringdon Road I remember them. Thanks for the post.

  12. September 13, 2020

    Well, yes, those are the paradise places! When I first came to England my early walks were to the Secondhand Bookshops, which were (and are!) to find in every small village, but certainly in London too. I found treasures here: British literary rarities, many old “National Geographics” from the 40s to the 50s, early editions of A. A. Milne’s Children’s Books a.m.m. — I love the “landscapes” of the shops, inwards also as outdoors. The fantastic photographs show these situations.

    An extraordinary experience for me was the visit to the small community of Hay-on-Wye in Wales in 1999 … I want to return as soon as possible here before they disappear forever!! What they won’t do, will they?

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  13. Mark permalink
    September 13, 2020

    Beautiful.
    Nostalgic overdrive.
    The Rolls Royce outside the Gin factory!
    The woman knitting on the platform at Clapham!
    The haircut, something to eat, something to smoke, something for the weekend and a pint of best, then hop on the tube! All in one brilliant photo.
    Cheered up after the latest tory atrocity anounced.
    Nice one.

  14. paul loften permalink
    September 13, 2020

    Thank you and Libby for the brilliant photos . I knew both these areas well in the 60’s and remember the bookstalls in Farringdon Road and also Clapton station, in particular Charlie the little station porter , he was a character with a voice that let you know to stand well clear of the doors ! The man in the ticket office who was also a lovely chap who had time for a few words as you bought your ticket. He always would inform you if the train was about to come and I would belt down the stairs. Thank you once again

  15. Ian Silverton permalink
    September 13, 2020

    Loved seeing those pictures of the book sellers, in my time around there and abouts very few where to be seen, then it was only one, just before left none was to be seen, all around 1965 ish. My self never looked back only now you have been putting up pictures of my past life, thanks GA, brings back happy memoirs some not so when you see how poor we all where or so it seems. Keep safe London, its only the beginning of a long drawn out Saga of our future lives, where ever you live in this World.

  16. Michael Hebbert permalink
    September 13, 2020

    The singer John Foreman was a regular around the Farringdon Rd stalls, picking up the collection of black-letter ballads that earned him the title of Broadsheet King. He can probably name most of the blokes in these wonderful photographs.

  17. Jo G permalink
    September 14, 2020

    Thankyou so much for such besutiful and evocative photographs. The book barrows especially – I remember them in the 1980s, when I lived in Clerkenwell. Are there enough photos for a book?

  18. September 14, 2020

    Love these pictures, espcially the book shops.🥰😘😊💖🌻🌼🌷💋

  19. September 14, 2020

    Thanks for publishing these brilliant photographs and thanks to Libby Hall for taking them!

  20. Ros permalink
    September 16, 2020

    I love love love all these photos! All of them contain things of exquisite interest and some are also just beautiful in themselves, eg the patterns in the strong sunlight in the second pic of Clapton station. Look how close the flats are there to the station itself – perfect to have two people sitting outside one. Sunlight and shadow are beautifully used in other photos too. And look at the comparative emptiness of Liverpool station, and the two black figures including the stylishly dressed woman. How they conjure up remembrance of things past, many of which I’d completely forgotten. I remember the Empire confectionery shops on mainline stations, so many of the advertisements and their typefaces, and Booths gin, though I’d quite forgotten where it was made. And those wonderful bookstalls, apparently very much male preserves, Interesting that so many of the men carry sling bags, briefcases or shopping bags in which they can put their purchases. Thanks so much Libby, firstly for taking them and then for showing them to us now. What is in the bottle(?) on your desk I wonder with what may or may not be a straw sticking out?

  21. Libby Hall permalink
    September 17, 2020

    It has been lovely for me to share, thanks to the Gentle Author,  these photographs. 

    To reply to some comments. I didn’t know Iain Sinclair at the bookstalls in Farringdon Road but later I often used to stand next to him in Kingsland High Road as we looked at books there.
      
    I do remember the cork shop in Farrington Road with its intriguing window display, Sadly I never went inside. I wish I had!

    I have Googled it and now know the Castle, where we sometimes went for a drink, used to be a pawn brokers.

    How nice that Paul Loftus remembers Clapton Station then. Oh my – there were even waiting rooms – with coal fires  in them in the winter!

    Ros – that is a pot of glue. I think I was pasting captions onto the back of prints for the files. What a mess my desk was!

    I thought others might be interested to read what a local historian wrote to me about the Clapton Station photographs. 

    Your photograph of the eastbound and westbound platforms of Clapton station capture beautifully the ambiance of the station which John Betjeman described when he visited the area in the 1950s.The wooden platform canopies with the distinctive pointed  edges and the delicate filigree ironwork of the spandrels and the slim cast-iron columns with decorated capitals echo the designs for Liverpool Street Station by GER Chief Engineer Edward Wilson (1820-1877).

    Betjeman used the station when he visited the Agapemonite Church in Clapton in the company of the son of the former leader of the sect which scandalised Victorian society.

    Writing in The Spectator of 3 February 1956 he wrote  “With a son of Smyth-Pigott I went to find where his father had lived. Only a cedar tree remained. The walled garden had become a garage and the site was occupied by modernistic flats. But the railway station, dear dark cavernous Great Eastern Clapton, is the same”.

    Betjeman’s obvious affection for the station and its “dark cavernous” aspect is reinforced by being overlooked on the north side by the rear walls of Hornsey Chambers which were constructed as model dwellings for the working class in the 1880s by builder W.G. Hornsey of West Ham and which were moulded around the constrained corner site created by the path of the railway. 

  22. September 26, 2020

    Well done to Libby Hall. Fabulous and unique images, especially as it was fairly unusual for a woman to become a press photographer, or even manage to get half a foot in the door back then. She reminds me of Doreen Spooner, a trailblazer who became Fleet Street’s first female photographer. I have Doreen’s fascinating autobiography from when she worked during the late 50s at the Daily Mail with a friend of mine. My friend is now in her late 80s, and Doreen by then in her 90s, only passed away a year or so ago. Many of the iconic photos that made front pages, i.e Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies in the pub at lunchtime on the first day of the Profumo trial; and Neil Kinnock falling over in the surf, is to name just two.

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