Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

VE Day Walk supplementary

These images relate to VE Day 75 – The Walk

allied movie brad pitt marion cotillard poster

allied movie brad pitt marion cotillard hampstead

Brad Pitt & Marion Cotillard at the Hampstead location

nicholas winton

Nicholas Winton

Nicholas Winton

Nicholas Winton

Liam Gallagher

Liam Gallagher

lee miller by man ray solarized

Lee Miller by Man Ray

lee miller WW2

Lee Miller goes to war as an accredited US war correspondent

Lee-miller-hitlers-bathtub-nsu-art-museum-fort-lauderdale

Lee in Hitler’s bath tub, Munich – the day she photographed Dachau – by David Sherman

george-orwell-at the bbc

Orwell’s wartime broadcasts

eileen maud blair orwell

Eileen Maud Blair – Orwell’s wife

VE Day 75 – The Walk

flags VE day 75th 2020 london

Beginning of my VE day walk – a lone hint of celebration on our street – East Finchley, London N2

st pancras and islington cemetery commonwealth war graves

Coronavirus has stopped normal access to the commonwealth war graves in St Pancras & Islington cemetery

the commonwealth war graves in St Pancras & Islington cemetery

The commonwealth war graves in St Pancras & Islington cemetery earlier in the lockdown (before they closed the cemeteries)

naked lady henlys corner statue war memorial

I’m sitting just beneath Emile Guillaume’s La Délivrance known locally as The Naked Lady – it’s a WW1 memorial but it is opposite the flat where my great-uncle Bruno lived, a concentration camp survivor & refugee from Leipzig Germany, so its WW2 victory for me

children holocaust memorial henlys corner

Flowers for children VE Day 75, Henly’s Corner

clock tower war memorial golders green

The clock tower memorial to WW1 & WW2 at Golders Green with its distinctive blue

keith douglas poetry golders hill

WW2 poetry Keith Douglas in flower garden at Golders Hill – wisteria no hysteria, stiff upper lip

Comment: unicornsalmost

‪This Sunday, on @bbcradio3 : Unicorns, Almost – a play about the life and poetry of Keith Douglas https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000j2bn‬

hampstead war memorial

Hampstead war memorial to both world wars – a few hundred yards from where I was born, overlooking all of London

location Allied brad pitt hampstead

Film location of ‘Allied’ movie with Brad Pitt & Marion Cotillard set during WW2

Film location of 'Allied'

Film location of ‘Allied’

I met a family sitting out on their front steps down the road from here, told them what I was doing and they pointed me to…

nicholas winton s house willow road hampstead

Nicholas Winton saved 669 Jewish children from the Nazis when based in this house in Hampstead

liam gallagher RAF roundel

Liam Gallagher‘s RAF roundel window at his old place in Hampstead

lee miller roland penrose house downshire hill hampstead

Photographer Lee Miller‘s house Hampstead – she photographed WW2 for Vogue magazine including the liberation of Dachau & Hitler’s bathtub in Munich

hampstead heath pond

My dad remembered vividly a doodlebug V1 exploding in the corner of this pond near his childhood home – I never walk by without thinking of him Hampstead Heath, VE day 75

george orwell house hampstead parliament hill

George Orwell‘s house – his wife Eileen O’Shaughnessy worked at the Ministry of Information during WW2 (in the censorship department) in Senate House, University of London & he famously used it as the model for the Ministry of Truth in 1984 – Orwell was in the Home Guard & broadcast for the BBC

ve day walk montage

That’s the VE day 75 walk done – 9 hours, 24,600 steps, good fun

Return to The Box – Three Imaginary Boys

The next handful of photos from The Box.

beach trio bathers england vintage photograph

It’s certainly in Britain – it has postcard printing on the reverse including “British Made”. It has the feel of a South coast town – maybe Kent. Or perhaps further West. I don’t recognise the people – if anyone is related it’s the boy. It could be my grandfather, Ian, whose box this was. On the back of the photo in pencil is written I Harris in childish, non-joined-up handwriting.

The swimming costumes are old-fashionedly modest one-pieces. The man on the right’s has something written on it – tantalisingly all we can see under his folded arms is “S S”. His Chaplin (or perhaps slightly broader than Chaplin) moustache is of a time. The man on the left is pretty dench.

In the background are equally modestly dressed female bathers. The beach looks fairly rammed and tents or huts take up plenty of space. The scene is redolent of Victorian England though probably it is the early 20s (if that boy is my grandfather – who was born in 1915). The house on the right looks pre-Victorian, probably Georgian.

It’s striking that the photographer is in the water too, so presumably he’s using light-weight equipment without a tripod. His (I assume) composition is slightly eccentric with nearly half the shot made up of shallow sea.

In the sea is the number T668. It doesn’t feel like it’s on the surface of the print. There are tiny white dots in the figures as if it’s been scratched into something. No idea what T668 signifies.

toy car vintage photo

This next one has also got postcard printing on the back but no handwriting: Post Card – For Correspondence – Address Only. There is just an inky fingerprint – adult – my grandfather’s I hope.

I don’t recognise the boy – he looks less like my family than the bathing boy above.

The sleeves of his knitted jumper are noticeably short – bad knitter or hand-me-down? He has leather boots, shorts, and that cap, so perfect for driving.

The cycleable car is very old fashioned – more carriage than automobile, with its carriage lantern, thin wheels and boxy body-work. It is nicely finished with its striping, detailed radiator and number plate. So quite a posh looking toy.

It looks like he’s in a front garden, with no fence between it and the street, US-style. No sign of big-boy cars in the road. An open, quiet corner of a bygone age.

choc and marie vintage family photograph

These boys I do recognise for sure – and their parents. The taller boy is my grandfather so this must be around 1926/7. The shorter one is his brother Henry, born 1921. Henry became a gardener. He had a magical death – went to White Hart Lane with one of his sons for football and Spurs actually won; went home and did his garden; took a snooze in his favourite armchair – and never woke up again. Way to go. And a lovely man.

The father is Choc Harris (name origin was in The Box). He was a working class man from Dagenham, a cabinetmaker.

The mother, my great-grandmother Marie, was profoundly deaf. I believe this made Ian’s aka Pop’s upbringing difficult in some ways. I think she was quite angry. Her maiden name was Cohen which probably explains how come it is her line I can follow furthest back in the family tree I have been working on sporadically for some years. Her line currently goes back to 1544 in Prague. If she had a religious lineage, perhaps they keep much better records. Her antecedents founded both UCL (university, with Jeremy Bentham) and UCH (hospital) in London where both my boys were born.

Her face is very reminiscent of my grandfather as an adult. She looks slightly taller than my great-grandfather and fairly masculine. They were both born in 1886, making them about 40 in this photo. It looks like they are in a back garden, which may be in Becontree, Essex.

My grandfather, with a hand on both their shoulders, seems to be holding the family together. He’s the smartly dressed one in the group with a jacket and expansive wings-of-a-dove collar (ironic, as in later life he never gave a stuff about what he wore, in contrast to the other (German) grandpa who was positively dapper). He is the darker, solid centre among their pale clothes, the anchor.

A Box update

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The good & knowledgable folk at Great War Forum have teased out a few details from this one including so far:

  • more than one regiment is represented – Fusiliers, RAMC, Artillery, possibly Norfolks
  • there are men in hospital blues – sitting in front on the right, right end of the first row and second right in the middle row; possibly also middle right of the back row
  • it might be that the civilian couple are home-owners who let their home be used as a convalescence facility

 

What a fascinating face

Virginia Stephen (Woolf) in 1902 Photo: George Charles Beresford

Virginia Stephen (later Woolf) in 1902 photographed by George Charles Beresford

George_Charles_Beresford_-_Virginia_stephen Woolf_in_190

Update to Dive into The Box

This update to my post of 22nd December concerns the Empire Studio(s).

The Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840 to 1940 website kindly informed me that there were 2 studios called Empire Studio in Cardiff and Edinburgh, plus 5 in London, and about 10 in other parts of the country. The London ones were active 1909 – 1932.

The London ones were:

  1. 60 High Street, Stoke Newington, London N
  2. 491 New Cross Road, New Cross, London SE
  3. Empire Studios – 106 Shoreditch High Street, London E – 1922-27
  4. 133a High Street Deptford, London SE
  5. Empire Studios – 305 Kentish Town (Road?), London NW – 1931-?

My guess was Shoreditch, being closer to Dagenham, but the dates aren’t right for what is evidently a WW1 photograph.

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I’ve been to visit the Kentish Town site and the Shoreditch one over the last two days, taking advantage of the quiet time in the city between Christmas and New Year.

Here’s the Kentish Town site:

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

305 Kentish Town Road

The Art deco flourish seems to match the 1931 opening

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

And here’s the Shoreditch site:

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

106 Shoreditch High Street (right)

Nothing left of the building but you can see from 107 what it may well have looked like. I like the fact it is now More Joy as JOY is a resonant word for me – my daily mantra is “I will enJOY my day”.

Talking of buildings no longer there, yesterday I also went to seek out 8 Praed Street as featured in yesterday’s post. My great-grandfather’s tobacconist is no more – it’s under the Hilton hotel.

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8 Praed Street, Paddington (right)

That’s the name of the game – some stuff survives, other is but a memory.

Dispatch from The Box

The daily thing is not quite working for me, so for this dispatch from The Box I’ve selected the next two documents (a telegram and a hand-written letter) and the next two photographs to make up a bit for the inactivity of the last three days.

49277840557_c24ae9f5d8_o me and dad

This one is 1963 or 1964. That’s me on the right, my dad on the left. It was taken at 2A Selvage Lane, Mill Hill, London NW7 (that was the full extent of the postcode back then), my childhood home. I remember those curtains from later but not the drawers. My dad’s haircut and glasses look pretty 60s to me, the vestiges of 50s quiff styles with regard to the hair, a predictive touch of the Ipcress File in those specs.

49277640021_21bf9e4273_o school assembly

The second photo looks like a school assembly. The Post Card / Correspondence / Address print on the back doesn’t give too many clues as to the vintage. My grandfather Ian would have been this age in the early 20s but this has more the 40s feel about it so it’s possible it is my mum’s school (except she was at an all-girls school for most of her school career) or my uncle John’s. The Chinese lanterns are an odd touch – was the hall decorated specially or was this not a school hall? It looks like they may be watching a performance, with which several are clearly engaging emotionally and almost all are giving their attention. Standing adults punctuate the scene, they have the teacher vibe. The crowd is mixed boys and girls, though with big blocks of boys together. Many seem in school uniform of some kind; lots of hats are being worn indoors, especially by the girls. I can only see one child in glasses (John Lennon-style – extreme right, half-way up). There are no non-white kids in sight.

49277840682_8b762e16be_k telegram ma

This is a telegram from my grandfather Ian (when he was still called Isadore in 1940 – he changed his name by deed poll on 14th October 1949 at a cost of ten shillings. His hit-rate on job applications immediately went up.) The off-the-shelf design of the celebratory telegram form is a bit more holiday than Watford. So this was sent from Watford where my mum was born (not sure why, I think they were still living in Dagenham – maybe the war-time demands on hospitals meant you had to travel further to give birth).

In March 1940 Hitler was planning the invasion of Norway and Denmark. Meat rationing had just started in Britain. A German air raid on Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands resulted in the first British civilian casualties of the war. Within two months Dunkirk will be under way and by September the Blitz will be unleashed.

On 26th March 1940, the day after my mother’s birth, this telegram is sent home to my great-grandmother in Dagenham, 30 miles away to the east. Is 6.54 the time? morning? how did he pull that off?

The concision is almost poetic: GIRL BOTH FINE

Now 79 years on there’s some irony and poignancy in the message. The younger is far from fine. She’s only a couple of days out of another hospital – UCH in London which two of said great-grandmother’s forebears were involved in founding in 1834, one of whom served as its treasurer for 18 years. Both my sons were born at University College Hospital.

49277166588_dca995a50e_k letter rita

This address in Paddington where my grandmother Rita lived was above A & J Falk, a tobacconist owned by her father (Jacob Falk).  This letter is written a month before her marriage – see wedding menu at Murray’s in first Box post. So by 1938 postcodes in London had evolved from London W to the likes to London W.2 but not yet added the next 3 characters of the modern postcode.

Although it is addressed to My Dear Ma I think this is to her prospective mother-in-law, the same as the telegram above. Her mother-in-law-to-be was profoundly deaf and that I believe made her life really difficult, and her children’s – Isadore and Henry referred to in this letter. Rita was born in June 1916 so had just turned 22 when she wrote this.

The fact that she is fantasising about having her own dressing table aligns well with the Rita I knew – she always had pretty objects on her dressing table, plenty of silver on the art deco wooden (walnut?) piece of mirrored furniture. She always used the acronym P.G. Cheerio I don’t recall her saying.

It was thoughtful of her to remember Henry, Ian’s younger brother. He was a lovely bloke and had one of the most splendid deaths I know. He goes to White Hart Lane with his son to watch a Spurs match and they win. He goes home and tinkers a bit in his garden – his profession was as a gardener. He goes in to have a rest in the armchair in front of the fireplace. He falls asleep. Forever. Way to go…

 

 

Dive into The Box

Here are the first three photos from The Box

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The photos and documents in The Box seem to belong to both Ian Harris (my maternal grandfather) and Samuel ‘Choc’ Harris (his father). Ian was born in 1915. Choc in 1886. As a child, I did get to meet Choc and his wife, Marie. He died in 1977; Ian died in 2004.

Neither of the dapper young men in this photograph remind me facially of any family members. They are evidently on a camping trip, probably in England, given the tent is supplied by Smith & Co. They seem to be part of a club or team in light of the casual uniform they are sporting. I’m not sure when those huge collars, thin belts and high-waisted trousers were in vogue – I guess the interwar years. The shoes are similar to a rather eccentric pair of Adidas my younger son has just acquired online – that’s fashion for you, round and round.

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This one has a hand-written note in ink on the reverse.

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The 3rd Eleven football team. October 1930 – Ian would have been 15 so it could well be his team. U Coopers? There’s a school called The Coopers’ Company & Coborn School in St. Marys Lane, Upminster just 6 miles from where Ian grew up in Becontree or Dagenham, East London. However in 1930 it was still located at 86 Bow Road in the East End (Bow, London E3) which is 18 miles further into the city, due west. It’s possible Ian went to school there.

I’m pretty certain that is Ian front row, 2nd from right with his right foot almost touching the ball. The 1930s boots make a stark contrast with his great-grandson’s boots who plays for Fulham FC. The goalie’s polo-neck is also charmingly period. Choc must have trained Ian up although the 3rd Eleven status indicates football was not his passion – as an adult I only ever saw him swim to keep fit.

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This is a curious find. On the back my grandfather has written his name in pencil in what looks like his childhood script:

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So presumably he was given this around 1920 which makes sense, in the immediate aftermath of the Great War. Choc was 28 at the outbreak of the war – I’m not sure if he served. He was a cabinet maker and quite slight of build when I knew him in his old age. I guess somewhere among these 21 is a blood relative.

Why the two civilians at the heart of the military unit? Perhaps they were patrons or sponsors of some kind? Perhaps they headed an institution or school associated with the unit?

The man doesn’t look that much older than the soldiers. The pair of them have clearly dressed up for the occasion of a formal photograph session at Empire Studio(s).

There’s still an Empire Studio located between Hackney and Bethnal Green, East London, on the top floor of the Empire building. Both Empire Studio and Empire Studios are listed on this Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland (1840-1940) website.

Details that stand out include the cane or swagger stick (front, 2nd from L); the corporal with the darker complexion (front, 2nd from R); the uniform with the wide lapels and broad ties (front, far R); the jaunty angle a number of them wear their cap, something we tend to think of as American.

The Box

Last week I was given this box

box of telephone equipment

It seems to be from some kind of telephonic equipment, some sort of exchange

box of telephone equipment detail

Inside was a load of family photographs and a couple of old documents

pile of family photos photographs

My plan is to upload and explore two or three a day starting today. Here’s the first – a document from my grandparents:

wedding party menu murrays soho london

It’s the menu from their wedding party in 1938

wedding party menu murrays soho london 1938

Why it caught my eye was because of the venue, Murray’s in Beak Street, Soho – that’s where Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, made notorious through the Profumo Affair in 1963, worked as dancers/good-time girls. Here’s Keeler in 1960

christine keeler 1960 murrays club

Murray’s had opened just five years before the wedding (under that particular name – the venue originates from 1913 and finally closed in 1975). The sign is still there, or at least it was a couple of years ago when I noticed it walking by.

Murrays Cabaret Club 16-18 Beak St soho london profumo affair

16-18 Beak Street, Soho

menu murrays club soho 1938

So this was the era of French menus (to posh things up) and 3-letter telephone exchanges (STE for Stepney). Consomme Palestine is an interesting item. All in all not a bad meal.

My last Profumo adventure is here

The second document to catch my eye was this one from 1943:

national registration identity card britain

It belonged to my great-grandfather, Samuel, who was known as Choc. This was because he was rewarded with chocolate for good performances on the football field as a boy – and it stuck.

national registration identity card britain 1943

I’ll have to take a trip to Lichfield Road, Dagenham sometime soon. I did a talk out that way for Robert Peston’s Speakers for Schools this time last year  and knew I was in my grandfather’s manor for the first time.

identity card 1943 britain

“You must produce it on demand by a Police Officer in uniform” – how very unBritish. I blame the Nazis.

I’m currently working on a feature documentary about the Nazis with journalist Martin Bright and director André Singer. The Nazis, they do quickly get you down – the dregs of humanity.

Tinkety tonk old fruit, and down with the Nazis

Sign-off used by the Queen Mother in a letter two years before this Identity Card (in February 1941) and later adopted by Kermode & Mayo on their movies podcast.

Marilyn & Ulysses

marilyn monroe reading james joyce ulysses

Marilyn reading the best book ever written

In my last post I included this photo by Eve Arnold, shot in Long Island in 1955. If you’re wondering whether it was just a pose and whether blondes prefer Irish gentlemen as a source of reading matter, this letter from Eve Arnold contains the answer:

eve arnold_letter to Richard Brown about _marilyn monroe_ulysses

Eve Arnold to Richard Brown, 20th July 1993

The letter is a response to Richard Brown, Professor of Modern Literature at the University of Leeds, a Joyce specialist. Brown subsequently wrote an essay entitled Marilyn Monroe Reading Ulysses: Goddess or Postcultural Cyborg? Which is the kind of title that puts people off of academia. But his query to Arnold was an interesting one and I’m glad he asked.

Marilyn Monroe Reads Joyce’s Ulysses eve arnold

The Long Island playground shoot 1955

Marilyn was frequently photographed reading – which in my book is a big plus even when you are a blonde bombshell.

Marilyn Monroe Reads Arthur Miller's Enemy of the People

Close to home: Arthur Miller

Marilyn Monroe Reads walt whitman's leaves-of-grass

Turning over an old leaf: Walt Whitman

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