Always Follow Ur Dreams!! – More texts

Posted on November 2, 2013

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I have been researching the history of immigration in the East End with a view to finding texts which direct me towards possible images for this project. This rather turns my normal approach upside down – I usually make the photographs and then think about the captions.

I am not simply looking for captions in fact. Rather I want to offer the texts as an additional stream of  information to accompany the visual data offered by the photographs. I want to open up new readings of my photographs not to anchor them down. This is not an easy task and I will need to give very careful thought to the texts I use.

My overall intention is to document how immigration has shaped London’s East End and within this I hope to be able to open up the minds of viewers to the challenges and struggles of immigrants face. And there are many challenges – finding somewhere to live, learning a new language, finding a way to make a living, getting to grips with a new culture, overcoming racial prejudices and violence and lots of hard work and struggles along the way. Once established most immigrant families become integrated into the community and many move on, making room for newcomers. Immigration in the East End has occurred as a succession of waves.

I set out some image/text combinations in my previous post here and here. To be honest I am happier with the texts for these combinations than I am with the photographs – much more work to be done!!

I have set out below a number of further texts alongside a description of the photographs I have in mind. I am doing this to chart my progress as I go along and to keep track of what I am doing….The texts may change, the photographs may prove to be uninspiring, things will change….

Finding a way to make a living…

The Bengali community in the East End have been exemplary in the way they have carved out their own industry and made their mark on British culture .  The curry house has been an unmitigated success as can be seen from the statistics in this text. I plan to make a photograph of the street full of Curry Houses which is Brick Lane. This text or something like it will accompany the text:

Number of Indian Restaurants TextGetting to grips with a new culture…

New immigrants have to navigate their way around the British immigration service, legal system and social services. It is hard enough for everyone else imagine what it it is like for a newcomer. Toynbee Hall has been offering assistance for people in distress since the Victorian times. I plan to use this text which is an advertisement for a voluntary worker to assist with their immigration service. I plan to show this alongside, I hope, an interior shot of Toynbee Hall which is a fine Victorian building. If this is not possible an exterior shot of this fine building will have to do…

Volunteer Toynbee Hall TextFinding somewhere to live…

Many early immigrants were sailors who were effectively stranded in Britain because of the dictats of the Navigation Acts which called for ships leaving Britain to be crewed by British sailors. Left homeless in a strange country, many stranded sailors died. Eventually philanthropists stepped in to help alleviate the suffering. ‘Stranger’s Home for Asiatics, Africans and South Sea Islanders’ was a hostel for stranded sailors. It was located on West India Dock Road. The site is now a block of flats built to a Modernist design in 1946. I plan to picture the flats as the site of the former ‘Strangers Home’. With luck I will be able to make a photograph of the place with the sun rising (in the east) behind it.

Stranger's House TextOvercoming racial prejudice…

For many years the East End of London extreme right wing groups such as the National Front aggressively campaigned against immigration in the East End. The corner of Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road opposite the Jewish Bagel Shop was a focal point for the activities. The National Front set up a stall on market days peddling racist literature. I plan to make a photograph of this street corner to accompany the text below:
Corner of Brick Lane TextSuffering racial violence…

In May 1978 a young Bengali Altab Ali was murdered by a bunch of racially motivated youths on Alder Street just off thee Whitechapel Road. The location is now a park which is named after Ali. It is a place of remembrance. I wish I could believe that racial violence is behind us but I doubt this is the case. I hope to be able to produce a ‘beautiful’ image of the park which will contrast sharply with the violence which resulted in its creation. This text will accompany the photograph.

Altab Ali TextImmigration is a process of integration and moving on…

In the early part of the 20th century the Synagogues were the principle houses of worship in the part of the East End around Spitalfields. Now many have been closed and replaced by Mosques as the successive wave of Bengali immigrants have become established. Fieldgate Street Synagogue is for the most part closed. It is surrounded on three sides by the towering new buildings of the East London Mosque. I want to use this as a metaphor for the idea that immigration is a process of integration and moving on. I want to find a way to photograph this Synagogue – it won’t be easy as the location is not photo-friendly. If I am successful i will accompany the photograph with this text from the register of Jewish Communities &  Records Website.

Fieldgate Synagogue TextI have a number of other potential photographic sites in mind for which I have yet to find texts. So I will add to this post and update my thinking as I go along.

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