Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi’s street photography came to light after the photographer’s death, when his niece, Victoria Loughran, retrieved some of his vast collection of negatives and camera equipment.
“Tex” was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and travelled to Britain as a stowaway in 1947 on a boat destined for Liverpool, settling in the East End of London two years later. As a self-taught photographer he focused on recording the daily lives of his friends and acquaintances, particularly on the streets and in the pubs, shops and clubs around Whitechapel, Stepney and Mile End.
His photographs, rarely seen outside his circle of family and friends at the time, documented social and cultural life in the East End. What distinguishes this archive from other photography of the post-war period is its informal nature and especially Ajetunmobi’s ability to capture the camaraderie between the long-established communities in the area, as well as the recent arrivals from countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia.
His niece said of her Uncle: “He always had a camera, always, always; wherever he went, he always took his camera with him… He must have taken tens of thousands of pictures: a mixture of later colour and earlier black and white in 120 and 35mm format. Everyone looks so relaxed and wonderful; and these are working class people in the middle of the East End who look like glamorous models. You get the impression he just saw them in the middle of the street, liked the look of them and said, “Oh, can I take your picture?”’