Assignment 1: Photograph as Document – The Pictures


Half-Way Along Walthamstow High Street

Swamped or Enhanced?

In Walthamstow, the high street runs west to east (or east to west) for a bit over a mile. While there is a seventies mall and some larger shops, most of the shops are housed in square units. While some of these smaller shops have been open for years, there is a fairly high turnover of businesses. The shops tend to reflect the patterns people moving into and out of the borough as well as the economic fortune of different sorts of trade. Woolworths closed and a Lidl opened in the aftermath of the crash and there aren’t any record shops anymore. However there will probably always be a call for cheap jeans, pots and pans, regardless of who is selling them.

This process of change can be characterised in many ways; here are two of them. I hope you can tell where my sympathies lie…


1: “Our towns are being swamped by immigrants from Eastern Europe…”


1a: Alternative Layout:

This layout probably reflects more closely how the pictures would look, printed and arranged on a wall somewhere. The “To Let” spacers could contain simple white prints (as here) or the space they occupy could simply be left empty.


2: “The vibrant character of east london has been built up over the years by wave upon wave of immigrants…”


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This presentation of the pictures should in no way be regarded as definitive; other stories can be told using these same pictures and there are many more shops that are not here at all. The likely next wave of incomers with specific needs and tastes is likely to lead to a gradual process of gentrification as people stop being able to afford to live in Hackney.

We’re still a long way away from cereal cafes and fixed-gear bikeshops, but I bet some people will hate the way things change while others love it. Let’s see.

Now here are the three sets of pictures that I’ve used to make up these semi-fictional high street blocks:

Traditional East End Businesses:

Eastern European Businesses:

Earlier Non-Trad East End Businesses:


My thoughts on all this can be found here (although the post hasn’t been made public yet – I’ll remove this parenthesis when it is)

It’s worth noting that the Pie and Mash Shop (Manze’s) which opened in 1929 is probably the oldest business still trading on the High Street. The Manze’s were an Italian family who came over to London in the late 19th century. The building (and its interior) was listed in 2013.

Percy Ingle, while traditional, has only been trading since the 50s, but that makes it ancient compared to the two Greggs bakeries on the High Street…


All pictures (bar one, which was taken with a Fujifilm X100-S) were taken with a Hasselblad 503cx with a Carl Zeiss Distagon 1:4 50mm lens on Kodak Portra 400 film. The negatives were scanned by me using an Epson V750 flatbed scanner. They were adjusted using Adobe Lightroom 5.


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