Boris Bennett’s Camera
This Kodak “Big Bertha” camera was used by the well-known East End wedding photographer Boris Bennett. Born in Poland in 1900, Boris came to Britain in 1922. Five years later, he opened a photographic studio in the East End of London, which was an instant success.
In his stylish Art Deco studio, Boris made ordinary Jewish East Enders look like Hollywood film stars. He was able to photograph up to 30 bridal couples on a single Sunday, the traditional day for Jewish weddings. Couples would queue on the stairs of the studio waiting to have their pictures taken and crowds often gathered outside to witness the scenes. It was the ultimate compliment to have your photograph displayed in his studio window.
Boris Bennett’s distinctive style used romantic flowing dresses, lavish bouquets and immaculate tailoring. Perfection and beauty was his purpose and he made all his brides glamorous. One commentator described him as the man who brought Hollywood to the East End, and today his work is much sought after by collectors.
Boris was quoted as saying that sometimes when couples were queuing to be photographed he was tempted to rearrange them to create more perfect matches. From this he got the nickname ‘Boris itch to switch’. With his own bride Julia he had no such temptation. On the day she came to his studio for a passport photograph he was so enraptured that he proposed to her there and then. They married in 1929. As Boris achieved fame and fortune he used his position to help others, including assistance with the purchase a house in Finchley Road to provide shelter and support for young Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. Later he left photography to become a successful financier. Towards the end of his life he would look back on his days in the East End with much affection and say, “What a wonderful Jewish World it was!” Boris Bennett died at the age of 85 in 1985.
You can see more of his work in this great book: Vintage Glamour in London’s East End, published by Hoxton Minipress. Read more here: https://spitalfieldslife.com/2014/11/21/boris-bennett-photographer/
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Hidden Treasures: Celebrating the documents, photos and artefacts in British archives that tell the story of Jews in Britain