Spitalfields in April 1912 by CA Mathew

Interesting article from the Guardian, UK.

On a spring morning in 1912, a man with a tripod and a heavy camera walked out of Liverpool Street station and into the heart of London’s East End, capturing the children playing with hoops and skipping ropes, the busy shoppers, the pubs, the horse-drawn delivery carts competing with lorries, the tailors promising individual garments at wholesale prices in an area famous for centuries for textile workers, a now vanished world. He then went home to his new photographic studio at Brightlingsea in Essex, and vanished from history.

His photographs of the streets and alleys of Spitalfields, which are going on public exhibition for the first time, are almost all that is known of CA Mathews: his studio is only known because the mounts of the photographs carry its address in tiny neat black ink letters. He took up photography in 1911, and within five years he died, soon after his wife, in late 1916. They may have been victims of the terrible epidemic of Spanish flu that killed more people than the first world war.

via Exhibition of photographs lost for 60 years reveals a bygone London | Art and design | The Guardian.

Unfortunately there are only a few photographs – I wish there were more.

The following caught my attention: “Many streetscapes are instantly familiar to both men – like the corner of Artillery Lane, where Dyson is about to begin restoration work on two houses – but others have been obliterated, including the grand houses in Spital Square. Some redeveloped since the photographer’s day, such as the grand Fruit and Wool Exchange, are controversially facing demolition.”. I think that this is partly why I like to take pictures of old buildings: over time they tend to disappear. One of my photographic idols is Eugene Atget who spent considerable time documenting a Paris that was disappearing. Perhaps a few of my pictures will be the only documentation of something which has long since gone. Of course the chances of this are quite slim nowadays. When Atget and Mathew were alive very few people took pictures. Nowadays everybody has a camera and there are probably millions of pictures of anything you can think of. So the chances of any of my pictures being the only document of a particular building are remote. Still you never know….

Leave a Reply