Whitechapel Gallery turns social history clock back 39 years

A MOMENT from the social history of London’s East End back in the 1970s is to go on show nearly 40 years later.

The Whitechapel Gallery commissioned international photographer Ian Berry to wander the streets and capture everyday scenes of a shifting population in 1972, a time of rapid social and economic change.

He had travelled the world photographing landmark events from Nelson Mandela’s release to the troubles in Northern Ireland.

His first commission when he returned to Britain was to document the changing face of the East End for the gallery, which was shown in July, 1972, its first modern photography exhibition.

Berry’s pictures captured the East End at a turning point, a time when the Jewish community was moving away, yet before other diaspora arrived and before the area’s ‘gentrification’ began.

They include iconic landmarks such as Bloom’s kosher restaurant in Whitechapel High Street, Petticoat Lane market and the working-class people who lived in Whitechapel.

Today, East London again prepares for change with the 2012 Olympics—so a new exhibition in March is a chance to look at what Whitechapel was like nearly 40 years ago, bringing back to life Berry’s original photographs from the gallery’s archives.

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The 30 photographs are being displayed along with rarely-seen archive materials including artists’ letters, films and books, in the exhibition running from March 11 to September 4.