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In 2010 I purchased 9,000 negatives on eBay that were said to contain images of London’s East End in the 1950s. I was hoping they would document the area’s vibrant street life. Instead there were thousands and thousands of pictures of East Enders on their wedding days and I was a little disappointed.

All the images were made by one photographer but no one is sure who the photographer is. He or she used a high-quality medium-format camera with flash, which gives incredible detail in the fabric and textures and those overexposed cakes and flowers. The pictures were probably taken between 1956 and 1959. Some of the couples are a little old, because many people were remarrying around that time after losing their first spouses in the war. Some couples had three or four films from their wedding day and others just six frames. But something special always seems to happen when the photographer asks the couple to kiss. The photographer seemed to make much more effort, the compositions were much more organised and heartfelt than the other pictures on the films. You could almost feel the photographer holding his breath as he firmly planted his feet on the ground.

Slideshow photographs: Stephen Gill


Stephen Gill, UK

stephengill.co.uk

‘Hackney Kisses’, edited and produced by Stephen Gill, is published by the Archive of Modern Conflict (amcbooks.com; stephengill.co.uk; nobodybooks.com)

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