’Another London’ photography exhibition at Tate Britain, London
In 1937, a young Henri Cartier-Bresson travelled to London to document the coronation of King George VI for French news magazine Regards. The set of photographs, which captured a throng of adoring citizens in various candid scenes (and noticeably omitted any record of the actual monarch himself), was significant not just because it was an important record of London life and its people, but also because it was the first of his photojournalist works to be published.
Fast-forward to 2012 - another significant time in Britain’s history - and Cartier-Bresson’s photographs (together with that of 40 other international photographers) make up the body of Tate Britain’s Olympic-bandwagon-hopping exhibition, ’Another London’. Taken by an international cast of image-makers who pointed their cameras at various London scenes between 1930 and 1980, the show is a look at the capital from the outside in.
The photographs come from the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection, and over two thirds of the 1400-strong image library, created over 20 years, has been donated to the Tate. Curators Helen Delaney and Simon Baker have chosen works by celebrated names such as Elliott Erwitt, Bruce Davidson and Bill Brandt, together with snapshots of the city by lesser known photographers.
Hailing from East and West Europe, the Soviet Union, Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean, they each had different relationships with the capital - some were immigrants, some tourists or on assignments, and others refugees.
Varied and contrasting, there are glimpses of life for the affluent upper and middle classes, as well as shots highlighting the plight of the urban poor, such as Bill Brandt’s arresting ’Bethnal Green Housewife’, taken in 1937, capturing a scene from an east London doorstep. There is, however, a resounding cloud of London fog and smog which features in all the scenes, despite the changing decades. Strangley, it becomes another rich facet in the character of this dynamic metropolis.