posted under: london

robert frank in london + new orleans

robert frank london 1951 robert frank nola trolley 1955
Robert Frank in London (the City), in 1951, and looking in a trolley window, New Orleans, 1955.

john bignell: woolworth’s, victoria, 1959

Another photo by John Bignell from The Library Time Machine website. The vintage signage is as interesting as everything else in the photo. Tricel sounded vaguely familiar, but I had to look it up. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica:

In 1950 the British firm Courtaulds Ltd. began to develop triacetate fibres, which were subsequently produced on a commercial scale after methylene chloride solvent became available. Courtaulds and British Celanese marketed a triacetate fibre under the trademark Tricel. In the United States triacetate was introduced under the trademarked name Arnel. Triacetate fabrics became known for their superior shape retention, resistance to shrinking, and ease of washing and drying. Production of acetate fibres has declined since the mid-20th century partly because of competition from polyester fibres, which have the same or better wash-and-wear properties, can be ironed at higher temperatures, and are less expensive.

So there you have it. Synthetic textiles made of chemicals and perceived in their time as examples of ‘better living through chemistry‘. But just as hideous to touch and wear then, as now.

john bignell: battersea fun fair, 1957

battersea fun fair 1957
I just discovered John Bignell in this post on The Library Time Machine website. It has more on Bignell’s work here and here. The reaction of the woman on the right is exquisite.

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.

merle park in rehearsal

merle park royal ballet
merle park royal ballet
Merle Park in rehearsal and more expressive than I’ve ever seen her in performance — here, she actually looks like she’s enjoying herself. In performance, she always seemed too controlled and much more focused on the precision of her technique than on dancing. Which, for the viewer, was a bit boring. Not to be critical — it’s just nice to see something more, and something a little more lovely and lyrical, in her dancing. Photos by Keith Money.

r4 doc: the twilight world of syd barrett

syd barrett

Listening to Louder than Words on Pink Floyd’s ‘The Endless River’ made me think of early Pink Floyd, which made me think of Syd Barrett, which led me to this very good — and still available — 2012 Radio 4 documentary on his life. You can listen to it here. The summary:

Six years after his death (7th July 2006) Syd Barrett lives on freeze framed, still young and a striking lost soul of the sixties whose brief moment of creativity outshines those long years of solitude shut away in a terraced house in his home town of Cambridge.

This revealing programme hears how his band Pink Floyd (and family) coped with Barrett’s mental breakdown and explores the hurriedly arranged holiday to the Spanish island of Formentera – where the star unravelled. In the programme we also hear about Barrett’s pioneering brand of English psychedelic pop typified on early Pink Floyd recordings ‘Arnold Layne’, ‘See Emily Play’ and the strange songs on Pink Floyd’s impressive debut album ‘The Piper At the Gates of Dawn’.

Undoubtedly Barrett’s experimentation with the drug LSD affected him mentally and the band members reveal how concerned they were when he began to go catatonic on-stage, playing music that had little to do with their material, or not playing at all. By Spring 1968 Barrett was out of the group and after a brief period of hibernation, he re-emerged in 1970 with a pair of albums, ‘The Madcap Laughs’ and ‘Barrett’, but they failed to chart and Barrett retired to a hermit life existing under the watchful gaze of his caring sister Rosemary (featured in the programme).

We hear from David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright (one of the last interviews before his sad passing) about how there was little understanding of mental illness when it came to the drug fused culture of the time. These days a strung out star is hurriedly booked into the Priory and given counselling. As this programme reveals Barrett’s mental breakdown was not understood and the steps taken to help him were inappropriate and still rankle the members of Pink Floyd today.

Although, from what I’ve read, Syd was never officially diagnosed, it was assumed by many that he suffered from schizophrenia. It’s been reported by multiple sources, including Roger Waters in an interview, that someone in or connected to the band had contacted RD Laing at the time of Syd’s breakdown, and made an appointment for him. They got Syd into a taxi but on arriving, he wouldn’t get out and meet with Laing. It’s also been reported, but not confirmed, that at some point Laing watched an interview with Syd and based on that, declared him incurable. Not sure that sounds like Laing, and Laing died in 1989 so we can’t know. But if anyone could have helped him, it would have been Laing. So it seems a missed opportunity and sad.

royal ballet: osipova in giselle

Clip below is from last January, but always worth seeing again…

osipova 1 osipova5

outside a soho nightclub, 1942

bill brandt
One more Bill Brandt.

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.

remember, remember the 5th of november

‘A penny for the Old Guy, miss?’ he asked as I exited Shepherd’s Bush tube station. The small, faceless effigy sat a few feet away with the boy’s friend, who seemed a silent partner in the enterprise.