Exhibition at the City of Toronto Archives

September - December 2017  |  March - August 2018

Histoires Croisées: tracking archival photographs of displaced communities within a British context

CHILDREN ARE THE FUTURE OF ANY COUNTRY: A CONVERSATION

​Wolf Suschitzky on photographing children

This filmed conversation was recorded at Wolf Suschitzky’s home in Maida Vale, between December 2014 and February 2015. He described his pioneering approach to photographing children from the 1930s until recently, discussed many publications on the subject and the influence on him of his sister, the brilliant social documentary photographer Edith Tudor Hart. Wolf was a highly regarded documentary photographer, cameraman and humanist, whose career touches upon key historic moments and major photographic developments across the 20th century. 

Wolf (1912 Vienna - 2016 London) moved to London in 1935, to escape Nazi persecution. Like Wolf, Edith became recognized as a photographer with a strong social conscience, and together they made documentary series about working class lives in Britain before, during and after the Second World War. Just before the outbreak of WWII in 1939, Wolf had been commissioned to produce a guide on Photographing Children. In addition to exploring unposed portraits, there was a deeper political message to Wolf’s work and he discussed the value of using documentary photography “in the cause of children”: 

 

It can demonstrate the need for more parks and playgrounds by picturing children playing in the streets. By pointed comparison of well-fed and ill-fed children the camera has power to give help to the unfortunates, to fight against child-labour, which is still far more widespread than is generally realized. The camera can show up bad and inadequate school-buildings and help in the campaign for better conditions generally. - Suschitzky, W. 1940 Photographing Children. How to do it series, N.26, p.70

In this short documentary, Wolf related his approach to photographing children at the start of his career. Wolf also discussed his work on Children of the City, a Ministry of information documentary that he worked on with female director Budge Cooper in 1944. This film focuses on ‘child delinquency’ in Dundee, and social deprivation, due, in part, to children having no public spaces to play and learn in.

Children are the future of any country was made by Tony Wallis & Julia Winckler, March 2016

 

In memory of Tony Wallis, photographer and friend (1938-2016) and Wolf Suschitzky (1912-2016).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boys playing cards, Dundee, 1944, Wolfgang Suschitzky 

 

Photographs and film footage used in the documentary taken from:

Photographing Children, Wolf Suschitzy, 1940, Focal Press

Taking Baby, Wolf Suschitzy, 1939 Focal Press

That Baby, Wolf Suschitzky, 1945

The Children’s Zoo, Wolf Suschitzky, 1939

Brendan of Ireland, Wolf Suschitzky & Bryan MacMahon 1961, Methuen & Co Ltd

Seven decades of Photography, 2014, SYNEMA, Vienna

Wolf Suschitzky Photos, 2006, SYNEMA, Vienna

Wolf Suschitzky Films, 2010, SYNEMA, Vienna

In the Shadow of Tyranny, Edith Tudor Hart, 2013 Hatje Cantz 

Further images from Wolf’s private collection.

Children of the city, 1944, Ministry of Information film, Scottish Education department, Paul Rotha productions, film director: Budge Cooper, director of photography: Wolf Suschitzky

Short extract used courtesy of Wolf Suschitzky

'In the Cause of Children:' A 20th Century Photographer's Approach to Photographing Children

CARLTON HILL: THE CHILDREN OF BRIGHTON'S DISPLACED COMMUNITY 

The majority of the photographs selected for this film were taken in Brighton, England in 1935. Commissioned by the Environmental Health Department of Brighton Borough Council for site mapping purposes of the Carlton Hill neighbourhood prior to its demolition, the photographs were taken by local photography studio, Vawdrey. Used to justify ‘slum clearance’, the council argued that they, ‘demonstrate those features of unfitness upon which the cases for clearance were based, elements of disrepair, dampness, lighting, ventilation, sanitary arrangements’. 

 

They were subsequently forgotten about, although rumours of their existence persisted until the 1980s when they were rediscovered, following research and investigations by Selma Montford, director of the Lewes Cohen Urban Studies Centre.

Some of these images inadvertently captured children in the streets, windows and doorways, returning the gaze of the photographers. Kevin Bacon, Digital Development Officer at Brighton Pavilion & Museum describes one of Vawdrey’s photographs,

[It] is a view of a fairly modest looking house. What you don’t notice at first is that there is a small boy looking out of the window. It is the idea that the photographer is there, conducting this visual survey, the one who controls the act of looking, but while he is doing this, he is being looked at by this little boy. So it is almost like the boy has the power of seeing, too.

In the introduction to an anthology of interviews with former residents of the area, Backyard Brighton, Selma Montford wrote that,

The inhabitants of Carlton Hill were united by poverty, and built up strong support networks within the community to help them survive the rigours of their lives. Not everyone had extended families, but everyone had neighbours. The demolition of such a neighbourhood is not just the destruction of buildings; it is also the destruction of a complex social support system. 

Selma’s voice reading extracts from Backyard Brighton, Backstreets Brighton and her The Landscape Book of Brighton Prints provide the sound track around which the images are woven.

 

Awaiting demolition, the former Circus Street board school is now one of the few surviving buildings and remaining visual traces of a community that was dispersed to new estates on the outskirts of the city when their homes were demolished. During 2015, members of the SSHRC team projected archival photographs from the Carlton Hill area onto the outside walls of this Victorian school building. For this exhibition, the film has been re-edited, to include some still images taken during the two site-specific projection events. 

 

Considerable parallels can be drawn between Brighton’s Carlton Hill and Toronto’s Ward communities, and how photographic images were used to justify their demise.

 

2016

Running time 13:40 minutes

Director: Julia Winckler

Editor: Ian Hockaday

Narrator: Selma Montford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carlton Hill: The Children of Brighton's Displaced Community

 

 

Acknowledgments and thanks

The SSHRC team is indebted to Selma Montford (curator of the first exhibition to include photographs of Brighton’s backyards and backstreets in 1988); My Brighton & Hove; The Regency Society; Kevin Bacon, for sharing their extensive knowledge on the Carlton Hill area, and for their permission to use images from their collections. Appreciation is also extended to Jacqueline Pollard and the other researchers and volunteers at the Lewis Cohen Urban Studies Centre and Queenspark Books who conducted and published the original historical and picture research. The recollections they gathered were provided by: Robert Haywood, Georgina Attrell, Amelia Scholey, Gladys Stenning and Bert Nelson.

 

 

 

UK PERSPECTIVE – A TIMELINE

1834 New Poor Law

1853 - 1901 76,000 Londoners displaced to make way for seventy railway schemes - a further 28,500 for road improvement and dock extension themes

1859 First purpose built playground, Manchester

1866 Barnardo's children's charity founded

1870 First mandatory education act, provision of board schools (in addition to existing voluntary schools)

1870 London at the heart of the Empire

1870 Salvation Army founded

1875 Cross Act replaces some of London's 'slums' by 'philanthropic housing estates'

1880 Elementary education act makes attendance compulsory between ages 5 - 10

1884 First University Settlement in London, Whitechapel

1884 - 1885 Royal Commission on the housing of the working classes

1885 Wesleyan Central Mission Hall movement

1885 - 1918 Height of British survey movement (connected to welfare focus)

1886 - 1890 Charles Booth 'Poor Map' Life and Labour of the People in London

1889 Anglican Christian school union

1890 Language of 'slum' uses metaphors such as ''the city of dreadful night," ''the inferno," ''the people of the abyss," and ''darkest England''

1891 Fabians' London Programme

1900 Philanthropist Horace Warner documents East London's poorest children

1905 Aliens Act

1906 New Education Act

1911 80°/o of Britain's population living in towns and cities

1912 C.A. Mathew makes photographs in East London's Brick Lane of children at work and play

1916 - 1919 Great War ( World War I )

1918 Maternal and Child Welfare Act

1919 National Counci I of Social Services

1919 - 1938 Local authorities provide 153,000 new dwellings in Greater London; private developers over 600,000 (mostly for owner-occupants)

1930 National Housing Act and Greenwood Act encourages local councils to clear their slums

1931 Canada ceases to be part of the British dominion

1933 'Slum clearance' becomes a priority for local councils

1936 New National Housing Act designates redevelopment areas

 

 

Daunton, M. Ed. (2001)

The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, Vol. II

Cambridge University Press

Compelling evidence: the mobilization of the Carlton Hill photographic archive across time

JULIA WINCKLER

ADRIENNE CHAMBON

SELMA MONTFORD