| 2012 | Exhibition
Up and down
Whitechapel High Street -
photographs from the car
Susan Andrews photographed street activity along Whitechapel Road out of her car window. In 1964 Donald Appleyard in The View from the Road said “The modern car interposes a filter between the driver and the world he is moving through. Sounds, smells, sensations of touch, and weather are all diluted in comparison with what the pedestrian experiences.’ In Susan Andrews’ photographs, there is nothing about her car, driving, or diluted experience - this is simply a novel viewpoint, taking advantage of slow rush-hour traffic. She exploits this view from the road to reveal Whitechapel Road as a busy pedestrian realm, a place of constant, enriching interaction.
The photographs from the car look head-on at the building faces and side-on to pedestrian activity, a view you don’t get from the pavement. But in the car ‘subjects are quietly observed from a distance' says Andrews; you don’t meet the eye of passers by. These photos are entirely different from the in-your-face street photography of Klein and Winogrand; Andrews respects the distance, while exposing intimacies, glimpsing the personal. These pictures are full of positive energy derived from the differences of people and purpose, constant encounters between friends and strangers on the street.
Jane Jacobs said: ‘the tolerance, the room for great differences among neighbours – differences that often go far deeper than differences in colour …. are possible and normal only when streets of great cities have built-in equipment allowing strangers to dwell in peace together on civilized but essentially dignified and reserved terms.’
These street photographs are entirely opposite to Meyerovitch's picture of a fallen man that no-one helps. They are more akin to Helen Levitt's 1940s photos and Andy Grundberg's comments on her, '...beautiful candid photography, done in a way that is non-aggressive, noninvasive and, one wants to say, non-macho.'
Because of Andrews’ unusual point of view, the building faces contextualise the meetings, conversations and passings by; people are seen in relation to library, surgery, housing; the marks, scuffs, signs and layers of change in the the building faces themselves part of the incident. These pictures are superb story pictures of moment–to-moment life. She says 'Sometimes there appears to be nothing of interest to photograph, whilst at other times I drive past something remarkable, unable to record it'. These photographs show ordinary life as full of interest, full of inconsequential coincidence. And these incidents also tell stories of physical flux – two photographs of the same spot show differences of use, street furniture graffiti with no clue as to which came first, which second. These pictures bring out the meaning of the Whitechapel Road as public space.
Exhibited at Cass Gallery, Whitechapel