A timely collection of imagery capturing the spirit of East London, collated from the archives of Getty Images, is currently exhibiting at the Getty Images Gallery at Westfield Stratford City from now until April 1st 2012.
London Living attended the opening night last week on a snowy evening in Stratford, which couldn’t have created a more captivating backdrop to the event. There was a brass band playing in the band stand by the red carpet with a captive audience, despite the snow falling more heavily.
Getty Images Westfield has been open for three months or so but what started as a pop-up has become a fixture at Westfield Stratford and this exhibition, EAST, is a celebration of East London and what it means to be an East Londoner. The prints themselves are stunning archival photographs encompassing the whole of the last century of East London life and beautifully document how much the landscape of East London has changed. Highlights included some of the Docklands shots such as ‘The Pool of London,’ below, taken on 10th December 1949:
We also loved the ‘What you can’t cook, we can. Bring your dinner here and we’ll cook it’ print below – this photograph was taken during a gas shortage during WW2 and really highlights the sense of community which was and remains so integral to East London life.
All of the pictures featured in the exhibition are rare, and some previously unseen. Some of the photographers, including Bert Hardy – grew up in London’s East End, making it an ideal playground for him and his camera. Topical Press, one of the first British press agencies, captured events including armoured cars on India Dock Road during the 1926 General Strike, while Fox Photos Ltd captured wonderfully British human interest stories like the Grannies Day Out to Walton in Essex. Cockney parties, slummy backstreets and the original cool East London kids are all lovingly captured with equal importance in this fantastically nostalgic collection of photographs.
A real highlight was meeting Doreen Golding, a Pearly Queen from The London Pearly Kings & Queens Society. Doreen was able to give us a little history of Pearly Kings and Queens and told us about the busy year ahead for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Getty treated their guests to delicious canapés from Wahaca which went down a treat (and ended up all over the pristine floor).
As East London prepares for its heyday in this Olympic and Jubilee year, this exhibition is a thought-provoking reflection of a century which has seen change, turmoil and triumphs in equal measure.