British photographic history

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Exhibition: Photographs of Spitalfields a Century Ago

Residents of the streets of East London are captured with startling clarity by the enigmatic C A Mathew. The purpose of the photographs remains unknown, but on the morning of Saturday 20th April, 1912, our photographer walked the short distance from Liverpool Street Station into the heart of Spitalfields, taking his camera with him.

In contrast to the more formal, posed photographs of the time viewers may be more familiar with, these photographs engage vividly with a modern audience, who see the people, the streets and the everyday details, just as C A Mathew himself would have seen them.

Mathew lived in Brightlingsea in Essex, having only begun taking photographs a year before these images were made, he passed away 4 short years later in 1916 leaving this series of images that in the words of the Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life are ‘the most vivid evocation we have of Spitalfields at this time.’

The photographs were found a few years ago packed into a cardboard box in the archives of the Bishopsgate Institute where they had evidently been for at least 60 years, but there are no records of how they came to be there.

Details of the exhibition can be found here, and is open by appointment from Monday to Friday, and all day Saturday and Sunday, from 6 March -25 April.

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Comment by Vicky Stewart on April 13, 2014 at 19:38

On 4 March information about C A Mathew was updated on Spitalfields Life. He died in 1924, a photographer to the end. It is unlikely he began taking photographs in 1911 but his professional life as a self employed photographer had certainly started by that year.

There is also strong evidence that the photographs were taken as surveying photographs.

I refer you to the two relevant articles in Spitalfields Life:

Vicky Stewart

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