East London is an interesting area for photography if you are keen to explore. And, when I say explore also be ready to open your creative mind. Know a little East London history before you go such as the bombings during World War II, the Victorian Slum Houses, Spitalfield, and yes, even Jack the Ripper.
When you understand much of the East End was leveled during air raids of the second world war, you’ll then know you will find a mixture of Old London and rapidly changing modern London.
Years ago, I joined one of the famous Jack the Ripper tours. I don’t remember much about the tour except for the guide repeatedly saying “imagine, if you will” when referring to 99% of the urban landscape. For me, the guide’s repeated phrase was sort of a downer. I wanted to be amongst musty old buildings, tho’ instead I had to visualise missing architecture while standing next to a contemporary building less than five years old.
To be fair, the Jack the Ripper tour was as entertaining as it was informative. The guides are typically animated, quick witted, a wee bit dramatic and masters of London knowledge. The vision I had of East London, however, did not match the reality of the uninspiring rebuild of the area after the world war. And so, I scratched East London off my photography list until about ten years ago.
I explore between Liverpool Street Station the revitalized Spitalfield Market area even today. There are interesting areas, narrow streets, alleys, old architecture mixed with the new and mysteries you create in your mind as you trundle along.
Knowing a little East London history myself, I enjoy imagining the sights as they were before, the sounds and the smells. I imagine people milling about, kids playing games in the streets, a woman shouting from a window in need of repair or the sounds of the Industrial Revolution which happened mostly in the east end of the city.
Is East London one of the best places to photograph London? If you are open to explore what is around the corner, yes. Remember to go with your imagination and creative eye.