Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
1960s Kodachrome photos of London’s East End (atlasobscura.com)
142 points by Slansitartop 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

Cripes, that introduction is laying it on a bit thick:

> “…the photographer knows he’s getting the last shots of those wharves, steamers and warehouses before they are replaced by imagined hotels and marinas, the proto-blueprint for the new world dominated by leisure, tourism and heritage replicas. These post-dockland utopias are soon to be upgraded into big business steel and glass, craven monuments of late capitalism. The future was in a distant haze, just around the corner.”

These photos should remind us that East London has always been changing, that progress is real but slow. Those "craven monuments of late capitalism" are every bit as utopian in their own way as the blocks being built in these photos, and in my experience much nicer places to live and work.

People that can afford to live in either a new luxury flat or a 1960s ex-council flat, will generally prefer the former.

That’s not generally the gripe with gentrification; it’s that in the experience of most of the residents of an area, gentrification expells not enriches them. Their lives and communities are used as fuel for someone else’s private fire.

And large parts of those photos can be seen still today.

Biggest differences I noticed:

1. You won't see those cars obviously 2. Shop fronts have changed styles. More modern branding. More large chains

But if anything I was surprised by familiar they look. I grew up in London in the 70s and 80s and I remember scenes almost identical to those. And even still you can find large parts of London that resemble that.

Even the very same street on one of the photos: https://goo.gl/maps/G3HRFX3SAgQ2

  They give us those nice bright colors
  They give us the greens of summers
  Makes you think all the world's a sunny day
  I got a Nikon camera
  I love to take a photograph
  So mama don't take my Kodachrome away
Those are some nice pictures. I lack the geographical and cultural context to really appreciate them though. What I know about the East End comes third-hand.

Well, working in the City and the Wharf and a bit out onto the Isle of Dogs over the last ~15Y I think that I recognise some of those places at little! Goodness!

A 'then and now' side by side would a nice update to this set, if someone had the time to do it.

Not specifically 'then and now', but Chris Dorley-Brown has some great modern shots of the area:



lovely people details in those photos - always people going this way and that but then there's a guy carrying a kids bike, a guy riding a lawnmower etc....

Thank you for posting this. I love these flashbacks to my childhood era(ish).

Great photos! Thanks for those links.

The Stifford estate photo is my favorite. The 'new' brutalist architecture of social housing marching in over the old pre war landscape. It's hard to imagine the utopia it was supposed to represent. Roll forwards 20 years those sorts of buildings represented drugs crime and poverty.

Brutalist developments in London are weirdly polarised. Either they've been torn down because of chronic social problems like the Heygate estate, or they're Grade II listed and massively desirable like Trellick Tower, the Barbican or Rowley Way.

The Heygate estate is an interesting point. I used to live in the foursquares, a smaller equally deprived estate just to the east.

At the time of the "regeneration" (2000s) it was a toss up between a number of estates and the heygate. However because of its size and location the heygate was chosen

My estate was turned around, and I was lucky enough to live in the estate, not on it. I got to know some of the original residents(and still do).

There are two important things to note, Council housing is almost exclusively of a very high standard (bigger than new builds by ~10+ sqm) Compared to the slums described so vividly in the road to wigan pier, a paradise. (running toilets, windows, heating plaster, enough bedrooms for each kid)

Until a rule change in the late 70s, you had to have a job to be eligible for council housing. There were (and still are, more or less) residents associations that look after the running of the estate. Caretakers lived on site, towers had 24 hour concierges, and ne'dowells were evicted.

However, that was all taken away in favour of dumping problem families, outsourcing cleaning and upkeep (In some cases, one cleaner 2 hours a day costs something line £80k annually.)

In short, there is nothing wrong with the estate fabric (of the surviving estates) but how they are looked after, and who lives there. Grenfell is a shining example, a solid block that was subdivided and halfarsedly put in new gas mains.

My estate was turned around, and I was lucky enough to live in the estate, not on it. I got to know some of the original residents(and still do).

Asking as someone mostly ignorant of estate housing: what does this distinction imply/represent?

By living _in_ the estate, I mean I turned up to the residents meetings, and participated in the governence of the estate. Council housing has been sold off, and represents a cheap, profitable rental income. Because of the high rate of change, they are socially and funtionally seperated from either leaseholders or council tenants.

When it came to regeneration/improvements, we were the one consulted, not the private renters.

If I missunderstood your question, here is some waffle:

An estate is a logical collection of dwellings, normally flats (but can be houses) that were commissioned and built by local governement for the express purpose of housing the employed working classes.

for example my estate was made up of four blocks of about 180 flats. Each block encloses a shared garden, with childrens play equipment.

as to what they look like:


It's important to know that the Barbican was built as luxury housing. Trellick or Alexandra Road were social housing and they still have a much broader social mix.

The Barbican makes me feel like I've woken up in a J.G. Ballard novel.

As someone said above, it's a polarising place.

On one hand, I'm sure I would hate living in a city where everything looked like the Barbican. Yet, every time I'm there I'm awed by its strange beauty. It has such a strong identity.. it feels like walking inside a sculpture.

I found that one part of the feeling you describe comes from it being "organic" in an unusual way. It's easy to find any number of modern buildings that use "organic" shapes or materials (think curved or made from wood). However, they will still be boring and predictable inside and fit into a very boring street grid outside. Barbican is different: it's "brutalist" and as un-organic in its material as possible, but the structure itself is an unpredictable, multilevel maze where you don't know what awaits you around the corner. That provokes a very different feeling, more akin to a forest over the rolling hills than to a city. And it's built that way both inside and out, at least as far as public spaces are concerned.

I think that different kind of "organic" is why I love Barbican. There aren't many places that make me feel like a child exploring a new area, but Barbican is the best at that.

Don't underestimate how terrible the low-incoming housing stock was beforehand. It was already decades behind the standards that you'd find in, say, an American city (mostly because London had grown huge earlier than they had, so a lot of expansion had been constructed to an earlier standard) Having chunks of it bombed flat in WW2 didn't help, either.

Kodachrome is stable as long as it’s in darkness. Light fades them pretty quickly.

Back in the day originals would be on Kodachrome, from which copies would be made on Ektachrome for projection in slide displays or an inter-negative on Kodacolor for enlarging.

There are a few additional photos in this article: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2018/feb/13...

I love looking at the street views with the little shops and taverns. Its an interesting reminder of the times when there wasn't an Amazon or Costco or a myriad number of cookie cutter bars and restaurants. Of course, these are the places that drove them out of business for good, if not for better.

In fact I find the most mundane pictures of street life to be the most interesting for anything older than 30y old. But those are the pictures taken today that people today would dismiss as uninteresting when it is really what will amuse them the most in 30 years.

I wonder how accessible all the photos on Instagram and Twitter will be in 30 years' time.

When I look through old family photos, the photos I want to see are the mundane ones that weren't taken surely because they were thought to be boring. Like a picture of the supermarket we patronized.

I attempted to locate the photos in this set on streetview. Some were easier than others.

In the same order:

Whitechapel Road https://www.google.com/maps/place//@51.5173129,-0.0668225,3a...

Spitalsfield Market https://www.google.be/maps/@51.5190196,-0.0773324,3a,75y,74....

Belhaven Street (no longer exists, got as close as I could) https://www.google.be/maps/@51.5286117,-0.0380893,3a,75y,27....

Stifford Estate (demolished) https://www.google.be/maps/@51.5174684,-0.0497713,3a,75y,285...

Mile End Road https://www.google.be/maps/place/@51.5243606,-0.0367707,3a,7...

Three Colt Street (difficult to get the exact location so got one with visible landmark) https://www.google.be/maps/place/@51.5096904,-0.03012,3a,75y...

Watney Market (massively changed but pointing in the right direction over the area) https://www.google.be/maps/@51.5128337,-0.0581398,3a,75y,348...

Gardiner’s Corner (nothing left, the department store burnt down in the seventies) https://www.google.be/maps/@51.5151995,-0.0716539,3a,75y,289...

Brushfield Street is pretty cool - you can see the painted sign on one of the buildings is still there in street view.

Its the first picture on the Guardian's version of this: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2018/feb/13...


If you look round the lorry in the street view, you can see the Donovan Brothers sign is still there (behind the scaffolding unfortunately!)

If you dial back the date in streetview, you can see it more clearly.


For Gardiner's corner, I think you're looking the wrong direction. The entrance to commercial road has moved, but you should be looking this way: https://www.google.be/maps/@51.5151995,-0.0716539,3a,75y,88....

The brick building on the left in this view is in the original photo: https://www.google.be/maps/@51.5151502,-0.0700696,3a,60y,114...

Thanks! I suspected I had the wrong angle but couldn't figure out the right one.

Thank you for your effort - this is awesome. When I was watching the pictures I wished to see current picturese of these areas.

Exactly what I was thinking when I saw the original article, and hey presto! someone has done it. Really interesting seeing them side by side.

Ah, now the last picture of the The George Tavern... That I was hoping was the one that I have in mind (though I am probably wrong)!

Definitely not the one that I was thinking of, but wow, thank you!

I may even go and hunt this one down on Thursday...

Thanks for your effort! I'm amused that 40 years later it's still called the "New Globe".

This is amazing. Having watched "Call the Midwife" and stayed in the docklands area in London, this puts into perspective some of the 'scars' in the landscape you can still see today

I am absolutely a sucker for the look of Kodachrome, and I'm glad I managed to shoot one roll before processing of it ended.

The processing itself is rather convoluted and interesting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K-14_process

Ratio between image sides is 1.25 meaning that it is likely the scans came either from 6x7 (cm) medium format slides or more probably from the 4x5 (inch, or larger) large format slides.

Unlikely, Kodachrome larger than 35mm was dead after the mid 1950's, there was a brief revival of medium format in the 1980's, but it didn't last long. I suspect the format might be more driven by the format of the book.

So more likely crops made from 35mm slides?

These are lovely. The photographer who found and digitised these also has some great shots in a similar vein: https://chris3.500px.com/

And his Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/chrisdorleybrown

Does anyone with a photographic bent know what the modern equivalent of Kodachrome would be? (Stable, archival quality, rich color reproduction, and digitizes well)

In terms of current film stock I've shot Kodak Ektar probably comes the closest to the look of Kodachrome, but it's still pretty far off. I think the processing technique for Kodachrome is what really made it unique, and since that's gone nothing else quite compares.

I was just going to reply suggesting Kodak Ektar, but you beat me to it. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ektar

There are massive discussions with film photographers about the different kinds of films and their colour profiles, characteristics and so on.

While I do like the look of Ektar, when I shoot color film I personally lean more toward slide films like Velvia, but that's a whole different beast. I just love that punchy contrast.

Upload to both AWS and GCP and use a Canon DSLR, retaining raw sensor data?

Unless you're shooting a DSLR with ~140 megapixels of resolution... it's not the same thing at all.

I'm not sure, but I _think_ you're asserting that the information content of a 35mm Kodachrome slide taken in the 1970's is 140 Mpix. It isn't. Not remotely close. A present-day DSLR (e.g. 5Ds) with a present-day lens is going to greatly exceed that slide's information content.

I'm not asserting anything. A 35mm Kodachrome transparency, like other 35mm transparencies on films of comparable ISO rating, contains an equivalent of approximately 140 megapixels of data in its 24 mm x 36 mm image.

Citation: Langford, Michael (2000). Basic Photography (7th Ed.). Oxford: Focal Press. p. 99.

Film has vastly more resolution than even high-end DSLRs. This isn't shocking or surprising if you know anything about the space.

What's with the submission date? It currently says I submitted this 12 hours ago, but that's not true at all: I submitted it closer to 24 hours ago.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact