Advance booking is recommended to avoid queuing and ensure immediate entry to the exhibition. A limited amount of tickets are available on the door but you may have to queue, especially during peak periods and at the weekend.
Nearest station: Royal Albert DLR
David Bailey is one of east London’s most famous sons. Over the past 50 years, he has regularly returned to the stomping ground of his youth to photograph the streets and their inhabitants. This personal collection, set in an historic industrial building in London’s Royal Docks, sees him return to Newham at a time when the world’s focus is on east London. These photographs document the changing physical and social landscapes of the area from the early 1960s to the present day, with streetscapes, characters and scenes of east London life. Some famous faces appear, but they are nestled amongst the wider backdrop and characters of the area. David Bailey’s East End features many previously unseen photographs and provides a rare opportunity to witness London’s transformation through the lens of a local icon.
The exhibition focuses on three periods: the 1960s, the ’80s and recent years.
This section features images shot for a Sunday Times Magazine article on the Krays that could never be published. The Krays went to trial as the article was due to go to print. A Krays’ gambling club features, which was firebombed minutes after Bailey left. Images from those clubs and other local pubs depict amazing East End characters. There are images of east London high streets, unrecognisable today, with old shop fronts and children playing in bombed-out buildings and houses long since cleared to make way for tower blocks. Spitalfields, Brick Lane, Stratford and Newham all feature in these colour and black and white prints.
In the ’80s, Bailey returned to the Silvertown docks, the site of this exhibition, to record the area before much of it was levelled for redevelopment. Stately east London buildings in ill repair and working cranes are shot through barbed-wire fences and wire mesh. Bailey also staged a photo shoot there for his own Ritz newspaper, with his wife Catherine, which appears in the exhibition. High fashion is juxtaposed with towering cranes and crumbling warehouses, with the sky providing the white background synonymous with his most iconic portraits.
Bailey returns to the streets of Stratford, recording the area as it undergoes significant change in the build-up to the Olympic Games. In one image, a huge blue fence marks the site where the old will once again make way for the new buildings of the Park. The photographs in this section also capture diverse communities living cheek by jowl, from white working-class men to Asian women in saris and burqas. The contrasts in cultures are stark. The old guard remains, through images of a traditional East End funeral procession, but newer residents are also making their presence felt. Stratford becomes an unlikely rural idyll in images of Hackney Marshes, the River Lea and the river that bisects the Olympic Park.
Supported by the London Borough of Newham. Produced by CREATE.