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Thierry Girard’s East End

April 16, 2023
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

Sarah Ainslie’s Brick Lane

David Hoffman’s East End

Colin O’Brien’s Brick Lane

Daniele Lamarche’s East End

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Andy permalink
    April 16, 2023

    Thank you.
    I like the Hackney Empire photo the best as it conjures up many happy memories of theatrical stories as told to me by my dear Auntie Rae who lived with us.

    My favourite one being on a warm night in the Summer a magician appeared on stage, snd presented my Auntie Rae, a lifelong resident of Stepney, with a beautiful drink with all different colours and flavours.

    “It was the best drink I ever had.”

  2. Susan permalink
    April 16, 2023

    Thanks for sharing these exceptional photos. What has always struck me about certain photos of English streets is that there are no trees, no grass, no flowers. They looks so stark, and sometimes even bleak. On a separate note, I’d love to have a print of the main (viz. the first) photo; it’s brilliant.

  3. April 16, 2023

    Funnily enough, I was in Hackney and Dalston only yesterday taking photographs and remarking on the gentrification of parts of the area. Nobody would dispute that better housing is a good thing but there is still poverty if we look for it or stumble across it. There are still damp, mouldy flats and beautiful Victorian mansions. The East End is a place of stark contrast. I saw doughnuts for sale at £6.50 each on London Fields market but I also bought a homeless person lunch.
    Another great set of evocative photographs.

  4. April 16, 2023

    These are really historic pictures. The East End, two years before I first came there. You can’t ignore the poverty and decay. But like Phoenix from the ashes, a cultural hotspot has emerged nowadays — not least thanks to G.A.’s blog!

    Love & Peace

  5. Kitty Shepherd permalink
    April 17, 2023

    Wonderful photographs, thank you for sharing them.

  6. Cherub permalink
    April 17, 2023

    I can’t help but feel sorry for Alan B and his family who look to be living in very poor circumstances. Perhaps doing home work pressing ties was all that was available to him as a source of income at that point. I hope they went on to better housing, more financial security and a better life.
    My dad lost his job in around 1970 when the mine he worked in closed down due to being waterlogged and dangerous. It was very difficult financially as there was no help with things like rent like there is now. He could claim unemployment for himself and something for me, but my mum had to get a part time job working split shifts cleaning at the local high school.

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