Focus of attention in Camden Town

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Focus of attention in Camden Town

Published:

Thu, 21/01/2016 - 14:59

By:

oscar
Published: 
21 January, 2016
by DAN CARRIER

THE faces stare at the camera like ghostly reminders of times past. 

Part of a private collection of photographs taken in the 1970s, they feature people who were familiar on the streets of Camden Town. 

Shot in places such as Royal College Street, St Martin’s Gardens and also further afield in South End Green, the pictures have never been shown in public before.

Part of a private collection of photographs taken in the 1970s

They were discovered by Dinah Swain at her family home in Gloucester Crescent, Camden Town, in a cardboard box.

Her mother Anne was a well-known Labour councillor in the King’s Cross area, and the family lived in a house in the crescent from the 1960s until Anne’s death two years ago. Anne, an architect, had a series of lodgers living in their house – and Dinah recalls one such lady called Suzanna Hall who spent around five years in the early 1970s in a room on their top floor.

“She was American, and had come to study art at Central St Martins college,” remembers Dinah.

Part of a private collection of photographs taken in the 1970s

“She had lovely long, wavy blonde hair and was a friend of a cousin of my mother’s. I was a teenager and I remember she was terribly eccentric. She was into photography, and used the bathroom as a dark room.”

Suzanna has long since returned to the US and it appears her time in London was spent with bursts of creativity through her talent as a photographer. 

She was, however, also beset with periods of being unwell.  

“She had bouts of  illness – she was treated at the Royal Free Hospital – and eventually left London,” says Dinah. “We never saw her again, but I believe she left these pictures behind.”

Part of a private collection of photographs taken in the 1970s

After moving her mother’s things out of the Gloucester Crescent home, Dinah came across the photographs once more.

“We had these photographs in a box with others at my mother’s house for many years,” she says.

“I suspect they must have been taken by Suzanna – I can’t think of anyone else who lived with us as a lodger who could have done them.”

The photographs are mainly taken in the streets surrounding Gloucester Crescent. 

One such image shows a poorly dressed older woman resting on a decrepit chair among stacks of rubbish in Inverness Street. 

Part of a private collection of photographs taken in the 1970s

Others include people wandering through Camden Town, relaxing on grass in what looks like St Martin’s Gardens, and another in Regent’s Park. 

One set is of a man drinking and smoking on benches that appear to be in South End Green. This would add further evidence to the idea they were Suzanna’s, as she spent time in the Royal Free – and therefore may have met and befriended people who regularly drank on benches in South End Green.

“Suzanna would walk about carrying a camera,|” recalls Dinah.

Part of a private collection of photographs taken in the 1970s

“She would use street drinkers as her subjects. Some of these people would have featured in David Thomson’s famous book In Camden Town, which told of the life of the streets in the neighbourhood. 

“I recognise some of the faces – people I would see as a child as I played out around my home. 

“The picture of an old lady in what looks like Royal College Street is very familiar to me – I remember many of these characters.”

Part of a private collection of photographs taken in the 1970s

• The archive will be on display on the New Journal’s website, www.camdenreview.com. If you recognise any of the people in the images, please contact [email protected]

Part of a private collection of photographs taken in the 1970s

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