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The Bridge Exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands 27 June – 2 November 2014

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Hungerford Bridge c.1845. Photograph by William Henry Fox Talbot, Museum of London

Starting on the 27th June is an exciting new exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands entitled Bridge.

Last week there was an announcement that one of its highlights will be an extremely rare photograph of Old Hungerford Bridge taken by the photography pioneer, William Henry Fox Talbot in 1845.

Brunel’s Hungerford Bridge  was at 1,462 feet long,  one of the longest suspension bridges built at the time. However Londoners did not have long to admire his handiwork because Brunel’s bridge was demolished within fifteen years to make way for a railway crossing.

It is the oldest photograph in the considerable Museum of London collection and will only be displayed under certain conditions due to its fragile nature.

Fox Talbot only began to perfect his process in 1845 and this delicate salt print has been considered too historically valuable to risk showing on  public display before.

The Museum are taking no chances  and have issued the following

Early photographs are extremely fragile. For conservation reasons this photograph will be displayed in strictly controlled lighting conditions, where visitors will be invited to press a button to illuminate it to minimise unnecessary exposure to light.

 It will be on public display for one month only.

Other than the Fox Talbot photograph, there are a large number of other photographs on display both  contemporary and historical artworks.

Like the Fox Talbot photograph, some chart some of the London Bridges creation and demolition.

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Old Waterloo Bridge under demolition Gelatin silver print, made 1936  © Albert Gravely Linney/Museum of London

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Lower Pool, with Tower Bridge under construction © Museum of London

Construction site to the west of Waterloo Bridge: 1866-1870- IN3

Henry Flather (1839-1901) The Construction of the Metropolitan District Railway Albumen print, made around 1868 Waterloo Bridge appears stranded in Flather’s extraordinary photograph, almost as if it has been thrown up during the excavations. The photograph was taken from a point west of the bridge, at the foot of Savoy Street, during the construction of the Metropolitan District Railway and Victoria Embankment. This is one of 64 photographs taken in the late 1860s by Flather to document the project. This photograph will be displayed behind a screen to protect it from unnecessary exposure to light, which could damage it.  © Henry Flather/Museum of London

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Looking southwest from Lower Custom House Stairs. Photograph by George Davison Reid. 1920-1933. Museum of London

If these are the calibre of photographs at the exhibition, it will definitely be one not to miss.

Bridge at the Museum of London Docklands will features paintings, prints, drawings, etchings, photography and film. The exhibition opens at the Museum of London Docklands on Friday 27 June 2014. Entrance is FREE.

Laureen’s Bonfire Night

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After surviving Halloween, we now celebrate Bonfire Night. I have often wondered what people from overseas think of this rather peculiar British custom. Fortunately to help to answer this question I have enlisted the help of Zimbabwe born Laureen.

Laureen who has lived on the Island for a decade, in words and pictures gives us her impressions of one of our most longstanding traditions.

To me, Bonfire Night signifies the advent of winter, along with the cold and darkness that comes with it.  It brings a bit of cheer and a celebration that has not always been part of my life.  Being from Zimbabwe, in Southern Africa, it was not an event I had celebrated before until I moved to London ten years ago.  I knew about the ‘Gun Powder Plot’ after reading about it in a history book.  As a former British colony, Zimbabwe adopted its fair share of British customs but Bonfire Night never made it to my part of the world.  I had never heard of it, although I have recently learned it is celebrated in South Africa, but probably only by a minority.

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 In the first two years of my life in London, I did not go to any Bonfire  Nights even though Tower Hamlets probably held them in the borough.  I had no idea such a peculiar custom existed. I assumed the fireworks in early November were a continuation of overzealous Halloween celebrations because the two events take place within a few days of each other.  One evening, while watching the BBC news, there was a piece about Bonfire Night celebrations all over the country with a special focus on the ones in East Sussex and Devon.  The sight of men rolling barrels on fire seemed quite bizarre but was unlike anything I have ever seen before, coupled with the burning of an effigy.  I put it on my list of things to do.  I had no idea that most London boroughs have their own firework events to commemorate until I read about it in the East End Life newspaper.  I have been a fan ever since.

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 I usually like to go alone, with my camera for company to capture the moment and share with friends all over the world.  It is usually cold and sometimes a very miserable wet evening, but that does not put me off or any of the local families.  Children seem to enjoy it the most.    There is usually an atmosphere of expectation as everyone stands there wearing their warmest clothes to ward off the cold.  Other friends from the southern hemisphere think I am mad to brave the cold for fireworks but I love the atmosphere.  It brightens up an otherwise bleak period leading up to Christmas.  The symbolic purpose of Bonfire Night is probably lost on some people but who cares when everyone acknowledges it is tradition! It has become a tradition for me too over the years.

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Last year I watched the fireworks held on the Isle of Dogs at Millwall Park when the Council decided to spread them out.  This year, I decided to enjoy the Blackheath fireworks from the bottom of the island at Island Gardens.

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Life in a Isle of Dogs Garden – Anita Gerzsenyi, Photographer

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Rainpearls IV. © Anita Gerzsenyi

Most people who visit Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs tend to look up at the skyscrapers and the large apartment blocks.  However local photographer Anita Gerzsenyi  has focussed her camera upon the smaller worlds we often ignore.

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I’m coming © Anita Gerzsenyi

Starting in her native Hungary  five years ago, Anita began to take photography seriously by taking photographs of the local plants and flowers. When she moved to the Isle of Dogs to study for a degree in Environmental Management she began to take photographs in her garden.

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Finally I found you! © Anita Gerzsenyi

The photographs featured here are testament to her skill and expertise as Anita charts the ever changing life in a city garden.

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Hungry wasp © Anita Gerzsenyi

Anita got to know the Isle of Dogs when she used to travel with her boyfriend Matyas on business trips, now she has fallen under its spell and chronicles her life here in her blog.

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Warming under the Sun © Anita Gerzsenyi

As Anita says  her photography has opened up “A whole new world with new shapes, textures and creatures, that we can hardly see with our naked eyes.”

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Plush wings © Anita Gerzsenyi

If you would like to see more of Anita’s work press here

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Moss in snow © Anita Gerzsenyi

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Lying in ambush © Anita Gerzsenyi

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White rose, White Hunter II. © Anita Gerzsenyi

Cockney Heritage Festival – Chrisp Street Market

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For the last week or so the East End has had a large number of events to celebrate the Cockney Heritage Festival.

One of the events was a photo exhibition  at Chrisp Street Market by Tom Hurley celebrating a local landmark Ivy’s Café.

For all the events in the festival taking place it seemed that having an exhibition in the market was great way to illustrate the connection between Markets and Cockney heritage.

There is no doubt that the history of the Cockney and the Costermongers are intertwined . Costermongers (street traders) in London have existed since at least the 16th Century  but it was in the reign of Victoria that they became common in many London street markets.

The Costers developed their own culture  which included their own rhyming slang, a distrust of the police and the election of pearly kings and queens. Much of what we think of as Cockney culture originated from the Costers.

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Chrisp Street Market gained a certain popularity  in the 1860s when many traders and costermongers migrated from Poplar High Street. It quickly gained a reputation as a genuine street market attracting customers from Poplar and especially the Isle of Dogs which  for years lacked its own shopping centre.

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Chrisp Market 1900s

In an area devastated by bombing in the war and suffering the closure of the local railway station, Chrisp Street Market struggled post war and it was decided in the early 1950s to relocate the market in a purpose-built shopping precinct. This shopping precinct was built as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951,  it was one of the first purpose-built shopping areas in Britain bringing together shops, café, market stalls and flats  and was widely praised leading to the design being copied all over Britain.

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Festival of Britain 1951

However by  the 1970s part of the market was showing signs of age and needed refurbishment which were carried out in the 1980s.

Tom Hurley used local people for his subject matter in  his exhibition of portraits taken in Ivy’s Cafe, a Chrisp Street market institution  for over 50 years run by the same family for over three generations.

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The portraits illustrate that Chrisp Street Market is a bit of a rarity in London, that is a quite large market frequented mostly by local people. Walking around the market it still has lots of places for people to eat and drink or just sit around and talk to other people.

In a rapidly changing retail world, Chrisp Street Market is a reminder of the importance markets played in  the local community. Much of the importance was the social interaction with your friends and neighbours. It was this interaction that was at the centre of Cockney Life.

So although London is ever-changing whilst we have places like Chrisp Street Market a bit of the Cockney spirit lives on.

 

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Passion and Fashion – The Photography of Nunzio Prenna

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It is my pleasure to introduce my readers to the work of Nunzio Prenna a local photographer who is quickly making a reputation for himself with his striking images of London and on the Fashion pages.

Recently I caught up with Nunzio to find more about his background and his photography.

Can you tell me a little about your background ?

I was born in a very small town in the south of Italy called Castellaneta. Perhaps some people into old movies know it because of Rudolph Valentino. He was from my hometown and did silent movies in Hollywood. I prefer to explain like this: “you know the shape of Italy? I’m from the heel!”

I came to the UK 8 years ago for my summer holiday. It was my last year at university in Milan so I just got the first cheap plane ticket I could find and it was a ticket to London. I spent 3 months working in a restaurant (as a sou chef even if I didn’t know much of cooking!).

When summer was over I went back to university and promised myself to come back to London. I did. Just a few days after my graduation I moved to London planning to work and live there. I was in love with this city.

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What kind of work was you looking for ?

I studied 3D and so i wanted to work for movies or advertisement. it was very difficult to find a job and I ended up doing other type of jobs to support myself. I never got into the movie industry but instead ended up working in architectures firms as a 3D Visualiser. The job is nice but I was missing something. Photography!

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How did you develop your interest in Photography ?

I always was into photography even if just for fun and nothing serious. I remember taking nice photos when I was really young going out for school trips. Funny enough some of my best photos are from a school trip I did to London when I was 16. I still have those photos back in my hometown.

I bought myself a more serious camera 4 years ago and started taking lots of photos. Since then I’ve upgraded my equipment a few times and got into photography more and more. I still work as a 3D Visualiser but photography is now part of my business (and fun).

My goal is to be a full time photographer and have my own studio.

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Who has influenced or inspired your photography ?

My inspiration and influences are many. I look at photos on internet every day. I buy photography magazines and fashion magazines constantly. It is hard for me to name just one photographer that gives me inspiration. David Lachapelle has always been one of my favorites if i really have to name one. I also love the work of many “non full time” photographers like me,  for example I could name a few (Athena Carey, Elia Locardi).

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How long have you lived on the Isle of Dogs?

I’ve been living on the Isle of Dogs for the last 4 years. I love it. It has everything I need and more. I hardly go in central London anymore. You can always find me walking around Canary Wharf and Greenwich where I always bring my camera.

As I said I work for architects and perhaps Canary Wharf inspires me in doing building photography.

I’d love to be able to combine fashion and buildings in my photos and this is something that I’m trying hard to achieve.

I find old buildings very photogenic and putting a model in them just makes the whole thing alive. On the same note I love futuristic buildings.

In an ideal world I would not mind to be a travel photographer and visit many different countries and cultures but I think I will stick to pursuing a career in fashion photography.

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If you would like to see more of Nunzio’s work or contact him.

Website: press here

Google+ page: Press here

Twitter:  press here

 Facebook: press here

Britain from Above – Limehouse, Blackwall and Poplar 1929,1931

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West India Dock, Blackwall and Poplar. 1929

To follow up from the previous post about Britain from Above, I  thought I would look at some areas surrounding the Isle  of Dogs. If the Isle of Dogs has changed considerably, the same certainly could be said of Limehouse, Blackwall and Poplar. It is worth remembering that within 10 – 15 years many of these areas were devastated  by bombing which makes these pictures all the more important.

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On one of the photographic flights Aerofilms spotted the famous Graf Zeppelin LZ – 127 flying over Limehouse in 1931. The Graf Zeppelin  127 was one of the most famous airships of its day going around the world in 1929 and flying over the Arctic in 1931.

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Limehouse Basin in 1929

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A wider view of Limehouse with Narrow Street bottom right and St Anne’s Church at the top

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Another view of Limehouse

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The Graf Zeppelin 127 over East India Dock , Orchard Place to the right.

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Another picture of the Zeppelin over East India Docks

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Blackwall and Canning Town 1929

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Poplar 1929

Previous Posts on this subject

Britain from Above – Isle of Dogs 1934

To go to the Britain from Above Website  press here

Britain From Above – Isle of Dogs 1934

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An Aerial view of the Docks 1934

Some weeks ago I posted an article about the Bombsight project which tried to chart where many of the Bombs fell in World War Two.

The Britain from Above project is yet another incredible website that is making available thousands of aerial photographs taken above Britain between 1919 and 1953.

Not only do you get access to the photos on the website, you can play an active part identifying many of the locations.

To give you a taste of what is available here are some of the latest photos of the Isle of Dogs in 1934.

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Millwall Dock 1934

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South Dock 1934

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Cubitt Town 1934

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Millwall Dock – Flour Mill 1934

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Millwall Dock from South 1934

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Millwall 1934

To go to the Britain from Above Website  press here

Mapping the Blitz 2

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Luftwaffe map of the docks

In a previous post Mapping the Blitz,I reported on the launch of the Bombsight website that tracked where individual bombs were dropped in the Blitz over London.

But how did the Germans managed to target the docks so accurately  before the advent of sophisticated targeting equipment?

Eric Pemberton’s collection of German aerial photos, maps  and navigational instructions which were given to the pilots and crew before their bombing missions provides some of the answers.

Every German pilot and crew was given a copy of  these photos and maps for the area to be bombed.

These included navigational advice and landmarks to look out for.

One of the tragedies for people in the Docks was although the very detailed photographs would have helped to pinpoint certain areas, the fact was that the very distinct meandering of the Thames made areas such as the Isle of Dogs a distinctive and easy target from the air.

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Photographs of Surrey Docks and St Katherine’s Dock.

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Isle of Dogs, Surrey Docks and Greenwich

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West India Docks and Millwall Docks

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Docks

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Areas clearly marked for attack

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Map and instructions of Docks and surrounding areas.

Other posts related

Mapping the Blitz

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Isle of Dogs

Here is another selection from Eric Pemberton’s postcard collection.

This time we concentrate on the Isle of Dogs:

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An early 20th Century postcard of Island Gardens.

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A postcard that illustrates that the foot tunnel was the death knell of the ferry service.

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Greetings from Millwall 1905 with plenty of pride in the ships visiting the docks.

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A really unusual card, the Millwall swimming club Polo team 1905.

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Stuart’s Granolithic Chimney

Stuart’s were manufacturers of artificial stone made from cement and crushed granite,
originated in Peterhead with offices in Limehouse. In the 1900s the Stuart’s Granolithic Works occupied the  large site between Island Baths and the Capewell Horse Nail Factory.

They built a 45ft-high chimney shaft  constructed entirely of granolithic blocks, it required a special licence
from the LCC, waiving the normal requirement for chimneys to be of brickwork throughout.

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Blackwall Pier was the main embarkation and disembarkation point for emigrants and immigrants up to 1930s.

The Seamans Institute was one of the many Institutes built round the docks.

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Early views of  the Blackwall Tunnel

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Christ Church still exists in Cubitt Town.

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 Swedish vessel Britannia in Millwall Dock April 1965-  the old Granary is on the left.

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  Interior of St.Edmunds old Church, West Ferry Road over 100 years ago.The Church was demolished in 1995.

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One of my favourites, 1912 there was a strike in the docks, however the policemen seem more interested in the camera.

Other posts you may find interesting

Eric Pemberton’s Postcards – Limehouse