Half Moon’s young people took part in a photography project to explore the changes in the landscape of Tower Hamlets over 30 years. The result is Snapped 1990 | 2020, an exhibition of photographs taken in 1990 alongside images taken at the same locations, 30 years later, in 2020. But, as it turned out, the exhibition became much more than that.
During February 2020, a series of research sessions took place at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives to identify photographs taken in 1990 by local residents and professional photographers that would reveal the area’s transformation. What had changed in the local area since the young people’s company was established in 1990 and what had stayed the same?
In March 2020, the first COVID-19 lockdown was looming and the on-location photo shoots around the borough had to happen quickly, or we would be forced to abandon the project altogether.
Some of our final activities, before the lockdown was officially announced, were sessions where young people accompanied Emma Brown, the photographer who had taught them about camera technique and composition, to the now deserted streets of Tower Hamlets. What had been intended as a celebration of the evolution of a cosmopolitan, thriving borough was now a poignant reminder of how precious life is, capturing a very particular moment in the history of the world, where once busy streets were suddenly empty.
The Snapped 1990 | 2020 exhibition will be displayed in Half Moon Theatre’s foyer gallery space from 22 April-18 December 2021. In the summer of 2022 it went on permanent display in the Half Moon Garden.
Snapped 1990 | 2020 was supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Photographer Emma Brown and members of our Youth Theatre give a tour of the Snapped 1990 | 2020 exhibition in the Half Moon Theatre.
In the summer of 2022, Snapped 1990 | 2020 went on permanent display in the Half Moon Garden and quickly became an important resource for the local community to share their own stories about the changing face of their borough.
Young and elder residents have enjoyed finding the streets they know and spotting the changes that have taken place over 30 years.