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east. A retrospective exploring London's East End

An exceptional collection of imagery which captures the spirit of East London, collated from the archival collections of Getty Images, will be exhibited at the Getty Images Gallery at Westfield Stratford City from 10th February until 18th March 2012.

Selected from the surviving archives of the finest British 20th century press photography all of the images featured in the exhibition are rare, and some previously unseen. From Walthamstow to Shadwell the show focuses on the people and events that touched their lives, offering an intimate insight into what life was like for East Londoners during the changing decades of the last century.

The East End was conveniently situated on Fleet Street's doorstep and some of its photographers - like the great Bert Hardy - grew up there, making it an ideal source for picture stories. Topical Press, one of the first of the great British press agencies, captured momentous events such as armoured cars rolling down India Dock Road during the 1926 General Strike. Fox Photos Ltd, on the other hand, focussed on 'quirky' human interest stories. Their pictures of a Grannies Day Out to Walton in Essex or Mr Ogles pet foal in Poplar, have the genteel air of a half remembered Ealing Comedy, as British as a cup of tea. Throughout these early decades, from children playing street cricket to the PLA's swimming club gala day, the shadow of the docks forms an ever present backdrop to East Londoners' lives.

On the brink of World War II Picture Post magazine introduced British readers to 'modern photojournalism' sweeping Europe and America, using subtle lighting and filmic compositions to produce photo stories. Their photographers returned time and again to the streets of Whitechapel, Stepney and Bow. Through Humphrey Spender's concerned photojournalism (informed by the Mass Observation projects of the 1930s), Bert Hardy's personal but unsentimental tribute to his fellow East Enders, and John Chillingworth's gentler, empathetic eye Picture Post photographed cockney street parties with equal importance as the area's more pressing issues of immigration, child poverty and slum housing.

Following the Festival of Britain Londoners turned their back on wartime austerity and ration books and looked to a more optimistic, equal and affluent future. Keystone Press Agency reflected this shift in focus, bringing modernity and clarity to its photography through strong, clean compositions. East London became renowned for a new generation of working class actors, fashion models and artists, as well as the 'teenage' phenomenon. Every-one was suddenly 'with-it' – even the motorcycling vicar, dressed up in leathers - and Keystone Press flourished by feeding a growing appetite for celebrity and fashion imagery.

As East London prepares for Olympic and Jubilee year, this exhibition provides a welcome point of reflection over the last century through unique photographs that predate the term 'paparazzi', digital photography and the internet.