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In pictures: Ken Russell's photos of London street life in the 1950s

Kyra Hanson

Penny-farthing bikes, Teddy boys, Teddy girls and children playing in the street before the days of health and safety and digital devices are just some of the photos on show in a new exhibition of work by the late Ken Russell. These photos lay unseen for 50 years before being discovered in the vaults of his agency TopFoto in 2005, and it's just as well they weren't returned to Russell, as his house burnt down soon after. 

Russell was nicknamed 'the wild man of British Cinema', but in his early years he developed a passion for photography. He first handled a camera in 1951 at the age of 23, after his early ambition to be a dancer was thwarted.

He thought of these photographs as 'still films' saying 'some of the photographs were catch-as-catch-can, but I learnt the value of perfect composition.' Reality is a Dirty Word at Proud Chelsea brings together these photos which vividly document the fashion and attitudes of a burgeoning youth culture in a dilapidated post-war London. 

In Your Dreams: A portrait of Jean Rayner, London, 1955
Bowled Over, London, 1956
Old Soldiers Old Soldiers, London, 1955
Boys on Bombsites, London, 1954

Photos: © Ken Russell/Topfoto

Reality is a Dirty Word is at Proud Chelsea until Jan 3 2017.


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