June 24 2011: Three Sepia Photographs of a Building Under Construction (Unknown Date and Location)

The revealing thing about these images, perhaps, is that seeing them made me realise how rarely the construction of ordinary buildings has been recorded by those who come to inhabit them. Although the images are not dated, and lack any strong visual or other clues as to their exact provenance (though a specialist could perhaps read some of the details of scaffolding and onsite plant and equipment to establish a more exact date), these three shots taken in what I assume to be a single place most likely come from the immediate post-war period, perhaps the later 1940s or early 1950s, as reconstruction and programmes of new housebuilding got underway in the aftermath of the Second World War.

I’m reminded of the final shots in Karel Reisz’s 1960 film version of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, when Albert Finney and Shirley Anne Field look down on the new estate where one day, they might have a home of their own. Sites like this must have littered the country between around 1946 and the middle 1970s, yet the homes produced are only usually seen (outside the specialist documentation of construction firms and architects’ practices) as finished and inhabited structures. I’m not sure I’ve seen snapshots of sites like this in ordinary domestic albums before: certainly not often enough to make those seen here seem anything less than unusual, at any rate.

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