Century-old images projected on Brick Lane buildings in art show

A wall becomes a window to the past. Pic: Hideaki Hara

Brick Lane building facades became a window to the past on Sunday as century-old images captured in the streets of Tower Hamlets were projected as part of the art show.

Art enthusiasts and residents gathered as black and white photos of men in bowler hats and women in long flared skirts emerged on the walls as dusk fell.

Before and after at Bacon Street. Pic: Hideaki Hara

The images were curated by artist Karen Crosby and sourced from the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives and the Bishopsgate Institute archives.

Some of them were works of photographer C.I. Williams, while others were uncredited. Crosby hopes the exhibition will help the community understand its roots.

“I hope people think about where we are going by understanding where we are from,” she said.

The images, part of a moving installation project, show that Tower Hamlets has maintained much of its facade in the past century despite the emergence of high rises.

They also reveal the borough’s changing demographics and its cultural history, from an area populated by French weavers in the 18th century to the Jewish and Bangladeshi migrants of the 19th and 20th centuries respectively.

One image which Crosby personally treasures shows a group of labourers who emigrated from Ireland to escape famine.

Passers-by stop to appreciate the art installation. Pic: Hideaki Hara

In another image taken in 1912, a poster announces that the Titanic had sunk. “There always has been a mixed culture here,” he said. “Sometimes it did not work and there were some little conflicts. The rich culture also emerges through the graffiti on the walls where the images were projected on.”

They reveal a vibrant art scene, thanks to art students and artists who set up their studios in Tower Hamlets in the past decades, she said.

Leave a Reply