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Tony Hall, Photographer

August 14, 2022
by the gentle author

Next tickets available for my walking tour are on Sunday 21st August



Bonner St, Bethnal Green

Tony Hall (1936-2008) would not have described himself as a photographer – his life’s work was that of a graphic designer, political cartoonist and illustrator. Yet, on the basis of the legacy of around a thousand photographs that he took, he was unquestionably a photographer, blessed with a natural empathy for his subjects and possessing a bold aesthetic sensibility too.

Tony’s wife Libby Hall, known as a collector of dog photography, revisited her husband’s photographs before giving them to the Bishopsgate Institute where they are held in the archive permanently. “It was an extraordinary experience because there were many that I had never seen before and I wanted to ask him about them.” Libby confessed to me, “I noticed Tony reflected in the glass of J.Barker, the butcher’s shop, and then to my surprise I saw myself standing next to him.”

“I was often with him but, from the mid-sixties to the early seventies, he worked shifts and wandered around taking photographs on weekday afternoons,” she reflected, “He loved roaming in the East End and photographing it.”

Born in Ealing, Tony Hall studied painting at the Royal College of Art under Ruskin Spear. But although he quickly acquired a reputation as a talented portrait painter, he chose to reject the medium, deciding that he did not want to create pictures which could only be afforded by the wealthy, turning his abilities instead towards graphic works that could be mass-produced for a wider audience.

Originally from New York, Libby met Tony when she went to work at a printers in Cowcross St, Clerkenwell, where he was employed as a graphic artist. “The boss was member of the Communist Party yet he resented it when we tried to start a union and he was always running out of money to pay our wages, giving us ‘subs’ bit by bit.” she recalled with fond indignation, “I was supposed to manage the office and type things, but the place was such a mess that the typewriter was on top of a filing cabinet and they expected me to type standing up. There were twelve of us working there and we did mail order catalogues. Tony and the others used to compete to see who could get the most appalling designs into the catalogues.”

“Then Tony went to work for the Evening News as a newspaper artist on Fleet St and I joined the Morning Star as a press photographer.” Libby continued,” I remember he refused to draw a graphic of a black man as a mugger and, when the High Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan came to London, Tony draw a little ice cream badge onto his uniform on the photograph and it was published!” After the Evening News, Tony worked at The Sun until the move to Wapping, using this opportunity of short shifts to develop his career as a graphic artist by drawing weekly cartoons for the Labour Herald.

This was the moment when Tony also had the time to pursue his photography, recording an affectionate chronicle of the daily life of the East End where he lived from 1960 until the end of his life – first in Barbauld Rd, Stoke Newington, then in Nevill Rd above a butchers shop, before making a home with Libby in 1967 at Ickburgh Rd, Clapton. “It is the England I first loved …” Libby confided, surveying Tony’s pictures that record his tender personal vision for perpetuity,”… the smell of tobacco, wet tweed and coal fires.”

“He’d say to me sometimes, ‘I must do something with those photographs,'” Libby told me, which makes it a special delight to publish Tony Hall’s pictures.

Children with their bonfire for Guy Fawkes

In the Hackney Rd


“I love the way these women are looking at Tony in this picture, they’re looking at him with such trust – it’s the way he’s made them feel. He would have been in his early thirties then.”


On the Regent’s Canal near Grove Rd

On Globe Rd

In Old Montague St

In Old Montague St

In Club Row Market

On the Roman Rd

In Ridley Rd Market

In Ridley Rd Market

In Artillery Lane, Spitalfields

Tony & Libby Hall in Cheshire St

Photographs copyright © Libby Hall

Images Courtesy of the Tony Hall Archive at the Bishopsgate Institute

Libby Hall & I would be delighted if any readers can assist in identifying the locations and subjects of Tony Hall’s photographs.

You may also like to read

Libby Hall, Collector of Dog Photography

The Dogs of Old London

13 Responses leave one →
  1. Maria O’Keefe permalink
    August 14, 2022

    What an interesting and principled man. Thank you Libby for taking the time to narrate.

  2. August 14, 2022

    Spitalfields Life.

    Love & Peace

  3. Maurice permalink
    August 14, 2022

    Absolutely excellent photos. Was wondering, regarding the picture of the woman with scarf on and her baby, does anyone know what the location is? Looks like it could be Petticoat Lane area.

  4. Mark permalink
    August 14, 2022

    Really good pictures.
    Love the one of the 2 men drowsily kipping on the bench in the warm sunshine. I wonder, had they left the library or the pub? I don’t think they are too bothered about going home to “her indoors” in their condition.
    Lots of working class wonders in these marvellous portraits.

  5. August 14, 2022

    The man with woman an child in the 6th photo below the text looks like someone famous, perhaps a writer? Someone one occasionally sees photos of as a younger man. Perhaps it will come back to me later!

  6. Milo permalink
    August 14, 2022

    Wonderful sharp photos. You can taste the air.

  7. Stephanie permalink
    August 14, 2022

    I would like to contact Libby Hall
    Is it possible to get her email address

  8. Philip Marriage permalink
    August 14, 2022

    These are so good – a photographer with the eye of an artist.

  9. August 14, 2022

    Aren’t we fortunate today? I so enjoyed this archive of photos. Clearly, this gent had The Eye.
    His gift for capturing a moment, a frame, an expression, a bit of signage, a scattering of book pages,
    and a parade of engaging characters……..quite remarkable.

    The two ladies in the doorway? — with their flowered aprons, house slippers, and sweet smiles —— Now that’s one for the ages.

    I got caught up in each photo, spinning narratives.
    Thank you, GA and the Hall family.

  10. Bernie permalink
    August 14, 2022

    I notice the complete absence of road-paint. No lane dividers, no parking bays. No nothing!

  11. Bernie permalink
    August 14, 2022

    No road-paint? I was wrong! There is some in one frame, the one with Mathias timber supply, evidently a more important (4-lane) traffic artery, probably Hackney or Kingsland Road at a guess. But true of the back streets, and a sign of the age of these images.

  12. Marcia Howard permalink
    August 15, 2022

    Wonderful, wonderful images, and every one a winner. Thank you so much for sharing. I had to smile at the working conditions under which Libby worked. Bet it was one of those old ‘sit up and beg’ typewriters that I started my own working life using. Mine thankfully on a desk, especially as I’m short and would have had a job to reach the top of the filing cabinet haha!

  13. Christine Dalton permalink
    August 26, 2022

    Such superb photos and every photo tells a story! I especially love the baby in wool, this doesn’t happen nowadays ?

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