The 1960s exists for me through photos, movies and nostalgia. This is often polarised between the swinging 60s of Carnaby Street and the East End underbelly of the Krays, hard-done by housewives and kids running errands through back streets. This one room exhibition of iconic photographer David Bailey’s 1960’s East End images at the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow sits within the latter description, but with a strong twist of the former.
The first photo in the exhibition shows a lone boy in the foreground with an empty street behind him of neatly lined up dustbins and a discarded pram, while others show mounds of rubble out the back of rows of houses, boarded up shops, and eery, empty but atmospheric streets. The area looks bleak, grey and often deserted.
But throughout the exhibition you are also shown the colourful side to life, not just literally with coloured photos, but in the subjects and characters. One large image shows the Kray brothers playing with a pet snake, with excited cheeky smiles as they know they’re playing with something dangerous that probably ought to be put back in it’s box. The Rio Club also features heavily and the glammed up ladies below certainly look like they were enjoying themselves.
The exhibition clearly shows the skills of this veteran photographer, both in his techinical abilities and also his ability to catch a moment or the expression on someone’s face. With the William Morris Gallery as its host and entrance to both this exhibition and the museum of Morris’ life and work being free, its definitely worth a trip to Walthamstow to check it all out.
William Morris Gallery
Lloyd Park, Forest Road
Walthamstow, London, E17 4PP
Weds – Sun, 10am -5pm, Free