The old East End

Park-Lane,-Stratford_DSCF5660©Geoff Wilkinson

In the fourth of a series of articles, local photographer Geoff Wilkinson discusses his new exhibition – entitled ‘Quick! Before it goes’ – depicting London’s East End, an area which resonates with many residents here

Preparing a new photography exhibition about London’s East End for my Wanstead gallery invariably involves a lot of walking. Cold, dark, wet nights are my preference as the light from street lamps, shops and traffic bounces in the rain and reflects on the pavements and roads, filling the pictures with energy and life, unlike daylight.

The other thing I can’t resist is an alleyway or a street with a curious name; in this case, it was Park Lane. The very name conjured up for me mental images of grand hotels and luxurious apartments overlooking London’s Hyde Park. This particular Park Lane, however, is just off Stratford High Street and is a wonderful example of the old and the new.

As you can see from the photograph, at the north end of this short road stands an old, small, white-painted building now used as a house of worship. Surrounded and dwarfed by its modern neighbours, the photograph shows a prime example of how change continues. Like the Thames that flows through it, the East End also changes continuously, albeit at a slower pace than the river.

The Huguenots, Jewish and Asian families have all passed through Spitalfields over generations. When the East India, West India and King George docks were working at their frenzied height, ships from all over the world were unloading passengers and cargo, adding to the mix of nationalities and languages. Not really surprising then that change continues, although at a faster pace, with architecture changing dramatically as well.

What I want to discover before they disappear are the buildings, streets and alleyways our parents and grandparents grew up in. There must be many more places for me to find, discover and photograph, so the search will continue.

Geoff’s exhibition of East End photographs runs until 1 March at Gallery 84 on Nightingale Lane, Wanstead, E11 2EZ. For more information, call 020 8530 1244 or visit wnstd.com/gw
Author: Editor