Early Morning Shoot Spitalfields and Whitechapel

Posted on November 9, 2013


My idea for the urban landscapes for Always Follow Ur Dreams!! is to shoot urban scenes without people. People immediately attract a viewer’s attention and I want to avoid this. Rather I want the viewer to take the ideas put forward in the text and project these into the photograph. This is easier said than done as East London is a busy place… Today, I decided to make an early start so that I could experiment with making images in the early morning before there are too many people are around. I left home in my car and headed for the East End at 4.30 am.

Here are the images I made and my reason for shooting at each particular location:

Cable Street

I have made some images here before but have not been able to do so without getting some blurring of the image arising from someone or some car finding its way into my frame during the long exposures I made. I also wanted to see what this location would l look like at twilight. The location is the place where in 1936 an estimated 300,000 East Enders blocked the road to stop Oswald Mosley’s black shirts from entering the East End for a rally. The cry was “He shall not pass!”. I think the image worked pretty well and it could find its way into my final selection…

Cable Street, looking East from Junction with Leman Street

Cable Street, looking East from Junction with Leman Street
©Keith Greenough 2013

Leman Street

I am interested in Leman Street because at the turn of the 20th century  The Poor Jews Temporary Shelter used to be at number 82. In 1905 following much lobbying by anti-immigration right wing interests the Aliens Act was passed. This placed considerable restrictions on the right to enter Britain as an immigrant. The process for sorting out immigration papers was long and many impoverished Jewish people were provided with temporary shelter at number 82 as their immigration application ran its course. As you can see the building there at the moment is a little different!!

Former location of Poor Jews Temporary Shelter, Leman Street

Former location of Poor Jews Temporary Shelter, Leman Street
© Keith Greenough 2013

Fournier Street

I have made several photographs of the former Huguenot houses on Fournier Street. None really grabbed me and so I tried again today as the morning sunlight was just hitting the top of Christ Church Spitalfields. This church’s history refers to its original construction as follows:

‘Christ Church was built between the years 1714 and 1729 as part of the church building programme initiated by the Fifty New Churches act of 1711, backed by Queen Anne, which was implemented by four different Commissions. At the time, there were fears that ‘godless thousands’ outside the City of London had no adequate church provision, and that non-conformists – including large numbers of French Huguenot silk weavers – were moving into Spitalfields and bringing their non-conformist worshipping ways with them.’

Here is the photograph from this morning….much better than my previous attempts I think so another possible keeper…

Christ Church viewed from Fournier Street, Spitalfields © Keith Greenough 2013

Christ Church viewed from Fournier Street, Spitalfields
© Keith Greenough 2013

The ‘Nazrul’ Curry House

There are many curry houses on Brick Lane and many claim to be the first…this one  posts the claim on its frontage. In the early morning light with the shutters closed it looks less than inviting. I am looking for a photograph to pair with a table showing the huge growth in the number of Indian restaurants and the UK. The restaurant business has been a key factor behind the economic wellbeing of the Bengali immigrants around Banglatown at the southern end of Brick Lane. Not sure if this image is a keeper but I do like the contrast between the massive growth reported and the understated appearance of this establishment…

The 'Nazrul' reputedly the oldest Curry House on Brick Lane

The ‘Nazrul’ reputedly the oldest Curry House on Brick Lane
© Keith Greenough 2013

Bethnal Green Road

The junction of Bethnal Green Road and Brick Lane was notorious in the 1970s. It was the place where the National Front used to hand our ‘racist’ literature. It is right in the heart of Spitalfields with its largely immigrant population. In 1978 the National Front inflamed tensions even more by moving its head office to Excalibur House, 73 Great Eastern Street, Hackney, London EC2 – very close to Spitalfields. Here is an early morning urban landscape showing the road and the junction with Brick Lane. This was taken around 8 am and I just about managed to get a shot with no people…in fact there is one man in the distance. I like this photograph and it may well be a keeper. I might have another go just a little earlier to see if I can get a picture completely free of people.

Bethnal Green Road at junction with Brick Lane ©Keith Greenough 2013

Bethnal Green Road at junction with Brick Lane
©Keith Greenough 2013

Wentworth Street

Wentworth Street is one of the locations for Petticoat Lane the famous street market. It used to be the heart of the Jewish East  End. It is said that in 1901 there were 15 kosher butchers on this street….not so today! Most of the shops are owned by Bengali and African clothing and cloth retailers. This shot was taken as the sun was striking the high rise buildings, which provide a backdrop these days for this old street. If you are wondering Petticoat Lane was renamed by prudish Victorians – it is now called Middlesex Street. This shot worked well and may be another keeper…

Looking West along Wentworth Street ©Keith Greenough 2103

Looking West along Wentworth Street
©Keith Greenough 2103

40 Hanbury Street

In 1889 Charles Booth observed:

‘The newcomers have gradually replaced the English population in whole districts, Hanbury Street, Fashion Street, Pelham Street, and many streets and lanes and alleys have fallen before them; they have introduced new trades as well as new habits and they live and crowd together.’

By 1900 many of these streets were entirely Jewish. 40 Hanbury Street for example was in the 1 February 1918 edition of the Jewish Chronicle announcing the death and funeral of the head of its household, Wolf Biber, a master butcher born in Vienna in 1860. I want to use an image from this area to set against a historic text (probably from Charles Booth) which will talk about the appalling living conditions of Jewish immigrants at that time.

40 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields ©Keith Greenough 2013

40 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields
©Keith Greenough 2013

All in all a good morning’s work and well worth the effort. The light is much better early in the day and I had a lot more freedom when making my images  – no crowds looking over my shoulder. It also helped that I knew exactly where I wanted to shoot and the composition I had in mind. The latest edit of my urban landscape photographs so far is shown in a pdf slide show below:

Always Follow Ur Dreams!! – Colour Images 9th November 2013