mercoledì 11 febbraio 2015


It is no revelation to say that London's East End was devastated by the Second World War; nor that, despite the privations of the rest of the decade, its people did their best to get the area back up and running.
Yet the period – and the people – remain a fascination to us. How often do we invoke the Blitz spirit that saw them through the years that extended beyond the war – more often than not, comically bathetically so? It is to this preoccupation that these photographs speak, offering an everyman's view of subjects from street traders to entertainers. And who wouldn't fancy a quick glance at the Spiv's Gazette?
Yet there is added interest here, and that is in the history of the man behind the lens: born into an Orthodox Jewish family, Walter Joseph fled his native Germany in 1939 for England. After being interned on the Isle of Man for the period of the war, he worked in a newspaper's photographic laboratories while remaining an enthusiastic semi-professional photographer in his own right. He doubted his own ability, but his family were proud of his images – which is how they ended up in a collection now on display at the British Library.

Walter Joseph was a semi-professional photographer, born in Germany but forced to flee to England in 1939, where he remained for the rest of his life. His images of postwar London went unrecognised until 2011 when knowledge of his work reached the British Library’s curator of visual arts, John Falconer. Though Joseph had always been doubtful of his ability, his stepdaughter had been eager to bring his work into the public eye for some time, and through a friend Falconer found out that she was still in possession of a collection of Joseph's negatives. Of the eighty surviving images, thirty were displayed for the first time in an exhibition at London's British Library between July and September 2011 as part of the London Street Photography Festival.

All images © Walter Joseph

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