Lifting the Curtain

The idea for Lifting the Curtain grew out of my fascination with East London and how it has been shaped by its history. It has been a site of continuous change for centuries – change driven by industrial growth and decline, waves of immigration, wartime devastation, and more recently post-industrial redevelopment and gentrification.

My interest led me to Charles Booth’s 1889 socio-cultural survey, ‘Life and Labour of the People’. Booth’s view was that ‘East London lay hidden from view behind a curtain on which were painted terrible pictures’. He believed that the mythology overwhelmed the reality. His mission was to lift the curtain and reveal the truth.

Lifting the Curtain revisits Booth’s East London through a series of photographs of modern day places juxtaposed with texts drawn from his 1889 survey. The locations pictured are places Booth and his associates would have visited. The texts describe what they witnessed.

Whilst the images and texts are testimony to the changes which have taken place in East London, many of the social issues that Booth observed over 100 years ago still have resonance today.

Keith Greenough, December 2014

Lifting the Curtain is presented as a book and as an exhibition of diptych prints. Click the image of the book below to see a pdf presentation of the book (this is best viewed in Preview two pages at a time, with the images on the left hand page and the text on the right).  Work from the series has been published in the September 2014 edition of HashtagPhotography magazine, and exhibited at the East London International Photography Festival in November 2014. Seven image/text diptych’s were also shown at the Memory Exhibition at the Oxford Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital Gallery in May/Jume 2015. A solo exhibition is planned for 15th-25th October at the TOWN HOUSE, 5 Fournier Street Spitalfields London. All monies raised from the sale of prints and books will be donated to Toynbee Hall in East London to help them achieve their mission of eliminating poverty in East London.
Lifting the Curtain - Book Format

Lifting the Curtain book format

Lifting the Curtain - Exhibition Installation

Lifting the Curtain – Exhibition Installation

A2 Diptychs Contact Sheet



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  1. Study visit to the East London Photography Festival, October 2015 | Mark Reeves Phototgraphy

    […] a small exhibition of 14 prints by recent OCA graduate Keith Greenough called Lifting the Curtain (see Keith’s blog).  Keith’s work was inspired by the Victorian social reformer Charles Booth.  Booth documented […]

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