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London Metropolitan University East End Archive: The Paul Trevor Collection

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Brick Lane, 1978, photograph by Paul Trevor

Academics and artists at London Metropolitan University worked with photographer Paul Trevor to make a selection of his images of East London digitally available to artists, students and researchers. The Collection includes 220 images (chosen from a total of 120,000) of the Spitalfields area from the 1970s to the 1990s, a period of rapid social and physical change.

The Paul Trevor Collection is part of a larger archive project at London Metropolitan University, which will eventually include oral as well as visual narratives, that aims to represent aspects of the lives of local East End communities in their distinctive social, economic and political contexts. The process of producing this photographic dimension of the archive was lengthy and gave rise to challenging questions. What are the aesthetic, historical, and social dimensions of creating a photographic archive and how might these be related? Which factors contribute to the construction of a photographic archive as a relevant resource for public history and/or academic inquiry? How can aesthetic and social/political discourses work together to achieve this end?

The project progressed through three stages. First, Paul Trevor selected 30 key images for the project team to view and, on this basis, to discuss a framework for selecting images and organising the archive.

Commercial Street, London, 1979, photograph by Paul Trevor

Second, Paul Trevor produced low-resolution scans captured from contact sheets of 5,000 images, grouped in folders according to specific locations, themes and events, which he sent to the project team on DVD.

Third, members of the project team met regularly to discuss and select images. In discussion, we tried to be reflective and consider why we are drawn to particular images, and which cultural narratives influence our selections and how the present shapes what we identify as significant about the past. We reached a broad consensus that images selected should convey a strong sense of time, place and social context, either individually or as part of a short series, and should have a strong aesthetic value. We wanted images to look visually pleasing as well as to contain information and references to broader events and social relations. In all but a few cases, images that were visually pleasing and self-referencing were discarded. We articulated a shared goal of trying to 'capture the spirit of the time', whilst being aware that we were also producing that spirit through our interpretations, discussion and choices.

Cheshire Street, London, 1978, photograph by Paul Trevor

Paul Trevor has emphasised that his images were the result of an artistic, aesthetic and personal engagement with his immediate surroundings, and represent what interested him visually at the time. Interrogation of his body of work by the project team has had the effect of re-viewing images as documentary as well as aesthetic in the light of contemporary concerns. Clearly, this process of turning images into records will be further enhanced by future use of The Collection as a stimulus for the production of narrative based on personal testimonies and memories of those involved in the situations represented.

London Metropolitan University East End Archive: The Paul Trevor Collection is intended to engage and stimulate questions about its meaning, and to be recreated through interrogation.

Project Team at London Metropolitan University
Susan Andrews
Dipti Bhagat
Jenny Harding
Mick Williamson

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Copyright and Permitted Uses

The images presented in the London Metropolitan University East End Archive: The Paul Trevor Collection are the copyright of Paul Trevor. They may be used for private research and study purposes only. Enquiries regarding reproduction should be sent to the address below:

Contact: Paul Trevor
Email: paul.trevor@gmail.com

The metadata presented in the London Metropolitan University East End Archive: The Paul Trevor Collection are the copyright of London Metropolitan University.

Image Credits

Anti Nazi League demonstration, St Mary's Churchyard, Whitechapel Road, London, 1994, photograph by Paul Trevor

 

 

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