British photographic history

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Exhibition: London Street Photography opens 18 February

Street photographs are at the heart of our understanding of London as a diverse and dynamic capital. They are characterised by an element of chance – a fortunate encounter, a fleeting expression, a momentary juxtaposition, capturing an ever-changing city.


This major new exhibition at the Museum of London showcases an extraordinary collection of London street photography with over 200 candid images of everyday life in the street. From sepia-toned scenes of horse-drawn cabs taken on bulky tripod-mounted cameras to 21st century Londoners digitally ‘caught on film’, explore how street photography has evolved from 1860 to the present day. Examine the relationship between photographers, London’s streets and the people who live on them, and reflect on the place of photography on London’s streets today as anti-terrorism and privacy laws grow ever tighter.

London Street Photography brings together the works of 59 photographers including:

  • Valentine Blanchard experimented with a small-format stereoscopic camera in 1860s London to produce the first photographs of busy city streets in which everything in motion was arrested in sharp definition.
  • John Thomson produced a ground-breaking survey of London’s poor with the publication of Street Life in London in 1877.
  • Paul Martin pioneered candid street photography in London when, in the early 1890s, he began using a camera disguised as a parcel to photograph people unawares.
  • Horace Nicholls was an early independent press photographer whose candid photographs of well-to-do Edwardians at leisure are particularly revealing.
  • Wolf Suschitzky came to London from Vienna in 1935 and began a personal project to photograph the life of Charing Cross Road, both day and night
  • Roger Mayne sought to record a way of life as he photographed a rundown area of North Kensington before it was redeveloped in the 1960s. Mayne became a familiar figure as he hung around the streets, camera at the ready.
  • Henry Grant was a freelance photojournalist with a profound interest in the everyday lives of ordinary peoples. He photographed London’s changing streets from the 1950s to the 1980s
  • Paul Trevor moved to Brick Lane in the East End in the early 1970s and photographed life on the street almost every day for the next 10 years. His photographs are a unique record of the area before large-scale immigration and gentrification wrought their changes
  • Paul Baldesare frequents London’s busy shopping streets, looking for remarkable gestures and expressions by individuals going about their everyday lives.
  • Nils Jorgensen is a professional news and celebrity photographer who always has his camera to hand to capture street images in between assignments.
  • Stephen McLaren seeks out quirky and colourful street images, while also leading a career directing and producing for television. He is co-author of the book Street Photography.
  • Nick Turpin is a great advocate for contemporary street photography, founding the In-Public collective in 2000 as well as a publishing company to promote the genre.

Click here for more information and details of related events

London Street Photography runs from 18 February – 4 September 2011 at the Museum of London and entry is FREE.

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Comment by Michael Pritchard on March 2, 2011 at 9:43
Anyone attending this exhibition (which is free) should be warned that there is a timed ticket system in operation and you may have to wait before you can get a slot - especially at weekends. As one might expect the exhibition space is very crowded and it's difficult to view at one's own pace. If you can visit during the week when it's likely to be quieter then you may have a more relaxing experience!
Comment by Michael Wong on March 2, 2011 at 9:39
To read the curator's own view of the show, check it out here.  I hope to pop in soon myself .........
Comment by Terence Pepper on February 18, 2011 at 20:23

A great intro text from Michael..shame there is no credit to the great shot by Bob Collins

who is also well-represented at the National Portrait Gallery..needs to be better known.

Great opening last night with several photographers present including Roger Mayne

and a fine speech by Wolf Suschitsky

Comment by Michael Wong on February 17, 2011 at 19:05

For those who can make it to this free exhibition during the day time, there is a special London Street Photography @ late which is on tomorrow Friday 18th Feb from 6:30pm - 9:00pm.

You can see a selection of the images on this site here.

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