posted under: blitz

david bailey: east end woman, 1960s london

bailey east end woman
From the Guardian’s series ‘my best shot,’ David Bailey tells the story behind this photo, taken around 1961:

The shot’s a statement on the social climate at the time – and at any time really. I was living in the East End in the 60s, which was probably more of a nightmare than living there through the war.

[ … ]

I sort of remember the day. But there were lots of days like it. I’d spend maybe eight hours taking pictures round the East End. I wasn’t just mindlessly clicking away, though. I’d think about things: you have to. I’m not one of those photographers who doesn’t know what he’s doing, so takes hundreds of pictures in the hope there’s one good one. I do one click then move on. By the look of the picture, it was quite sunny – the reflection wouldn’t have been as strong otherwise. I prefer London in the rain, though. I just find it so beautiful.

I started shooting in the East End because it was where I was from. I lived there all through the blitz. When I was about three and a half, the flat next door was flattened, so we had to move from Leytonstone to East Ham. I was six and a half when the war ended and quite used to bombsites by then. I’ve never let myself be limited by my background, though.

london was ours

In London Was Ours: Diaries and Memoirs of the London Blitz, author Amy Helen Bell writes:

Diarists’ and memoirists’ descriptions of London during the Blitz were heavily indebted to modernist metaphors. Civilian writers used metaphors of reading, watching films and photography to link raids to the familiar, and to emphasize their own importance as viewers. Like the Crimean soldier and the Great War journalist in London, Londoners during the Blitz were awed, saddened and excited by what they saw during the Blitz, and by their own privileged position as witnesses. The use of modernist and surrealist imagery points to the new artistic and historical interrelationship between the spectator and the London they watched.

This is a fascinating book and I’ll be posting more excerpts as I read.

fred morley london was ours
From the book’s paperback cover: A milkman delivering milk in a London street devastated during a German bombing raid. Photo by Fred Morley. 

bill brandt blitz
Bill Brandt, 1940. Taking shelter in the Elephant and Castle tube station.