The Museum of London has a new exhibition dedicated to Street Photography opening tomorrow. I went along for an early preview this morning, and was lucky enough to look around the show with the museum’s Senior Curator of Photographs, Mike Seaborne.
The show is divided into sections by date, beginning with the very earliest shots of streets in London from around 1860, and taking us right up to present day.
Through the ages, you can see the rise in press photography between 1890 and 1920, some incredible pictures of London during the Blitz, and the development of a more abstract expressionism in photography in the post-war period. The theme of photography as documentary runs through the exhibition, whether it’s an attempt to capture “life as it is”, or a more deliberate effort to record social hardships, cultural shifts and the evolution of London.
While I couldn’t get curator Mike Seaborne to decide on a favourite image, he did point out a few of his highlights. Two, by Horace Nicholls, that he “found” while searching the archives almost look like photographic nods to Renoir paintings, they’re so beautiful. “I didn’t know we had any images by this photographer. They’d actually been wrongly attributed,” Seaborne explains. “I’d seen one in the National Media Museum, so I recognised these immediately. They’re very important examples of photography of the time.” Other favourites of Seaborne’s are by the German photographer and documentary filmmaker Lutz Dille. The incredibly striking portraits are a fantastic snapshot of life in London in the early 1960s.
Seaborne admits to having the edit the museum’s archive of photography “very savagely” for the exhibition. “We’ve really cut down on the contemporary section. The contemporary photos don’t have the same social concerns of those in the 1930s. The nature of documentary has changed: literally everyone with an iphone can do it now.”
There certainly is a very different “feel” to the later part of the exhibition. It’s as though, once colour is introduced, my response to the photos changes: these pictures are more familiar, perhaps less political than the previous shots. What they certainly capture perfectly is the changing nature of photography. As Seaborne points out, everyone’s at it these days.
In fact, the Museum of London is offering you the chance to win an iPad. Just take your own street photography scene and upload the image to their flickr album. Don’t forget to check out the excellent, free exhibition first for some inspiration!
London Street Photography is at the Museum of London until 4 September. As previously mentioned, the exhibition, along with the museum, is free.