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Rare photographs of life in the East London docklands before Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf, the commercial estate on the Isle of Dogs, is now infamous for being the financial hub of London. Towering buildings, high power people in suits and lavishness are all synonymous with this sector of England’s capital. Yet this is a far cry from the East End docklands community that once graced its streets, long before huge global finance companies piled in and gave it a corporate makeover.

Between 1982-1987, photographer Mike Seaborne stumbled across this East End community and set out to photograph the local people. What set out as a photography project for Seaborne turned into a flicker of history; capturing the innocence, community and essence of the place, freezing it in time for future generations to get a small glimpse into a community before ‘Big Money’ forced them out.

Seaborne explains in an interview with Huck how “it quickly became apparent that the Isle of Dogs was a rather special place in that its geographical isolation from the rest of East London meant that its inhabitants had, over several generations, formed a very close-knit community.”

He added in conversation with Huck: “The aim of the project was to create a photographic archive loosely based on the concept of ‘a day in the life of the Isle of Dogs’ that would give a representation of the Island before whatever fate lay ahead for the area began to take effect.”

It depicted daily life from workers on their lunch breaks to kids playing by the Thames. Seaborne managed to capture individual personalities perfectly with his series of black and white images. Divulging his opinion on London’s fate, he continued: “I don’t really feel confident about anything at present. I don’t know what future London has.

“I hope it might be one that doesn’t continue to rely almost exclusively on its being the world’s financial capital and a paradise for property speculators and money launderers,” he added. “I used to think that London was the best city in the world, but no longer. I think it is now suffering the consequences of its own success.”

Below, see some of Mike Seaborne’s images which offer a glimpse inside his book The Isle of Dogs: Before the big money, via Flashbak:

(All images from Mike Seaborne’s book The Isle of Dogs: Before the big money, via Flashbak)