David Bailey’s Eastend

Soaking up Bailey

The combination of David Bailey photographs and the Eastend should be a match made is visual heaven, and that was true to a point, a rather limited point.


The exhibition housed out at Compression House on the Royal Albert Docks was rather like a entree, the main meal seemed to have been with held back. Sold as charting 60 years of the Eastend of London was a bit of an over sell, there were some brilliant shots form Bailey’s youth with his family members and him as a child, which were amazing, beautifully aged and dog eared, with an amateur feel that added to the romance of the shots.

The brilliant old shots of Canning Town, Bethnal Green and Brick Lane in the 60’s are striking. To see how the Eastend has and hasn’t changed in the course of half a century was truly striking and beautiful.

Off Spitalfields and Commercial Road

The colour shots of the 60’s mostly in boozers were another highlight, featuring normal Londoners in their natural habitat with a pint or a Babycham, fag in hand. But why limit it to six shots? The story of how Bailey spent time with the Krays in the inner sanctum at safe houses is quite an intriguing one which is covered in one, albeit beautiful and sinister shot. The colours and the looks on the despicable twin’s faces tell a thousand stories but it left me wanting more…

The most disappointing part though was the more modern shots, the 1980’s seems to have missed out on how colourful the times were, there political unrest and the amazing fashion faux pas of the time.

Into a new Millennium and again pretty thin on the ground. The Eastend and Canning Town in particular has undergone huge chances, for a start the whole Olympic experience has not really been reflected.

The shots in the collection are beautiful and emotive, as you would expects from one of the world’s most celebrated photographers, using a combination of film and digital camera, in black and white as well as full colour, covering landscapes and people. Bailey is an iconic photographer for our time, self taught and a real Eastend hero, for the shots he has there it is worth seeing, but for £7…

Bailey B+W

One final gripe, the collection was hung in a room with huge lights which reflected off of the glass, ruining the impact of the images. Basically Bailey was let down on this on.

All my family and are originally from London and I was hoping to get more of a snap shot of the Eastend that my old Nanny May May and Granddad lived in, worked in and left many years ago. Now what the hell do I know about curating an exhibition but maybe a little more depth is needed?


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