The Pedley St Arch is one of Spitalfields’ most disreputable corners and has been for more than a century, evidenced by this description of it by Emmanuel Litvinoff from his autobiography ‘Journey Through A Small Planet’ (1968) recalling his childhood, growing up in Cheshire St in the nineteen-twenties.
“Late one night, about eleven o’clock, I was detailed to walk Fanya home… There were no unusual signs of debauchery when we came to the railway arch although couples grappled against the dripping walls and tramps lay around parcelled in old newspaper.
The evil was in its gloom, its putrid stench, in the industrial grime of half a century with which it was impregnated.”
You need a strong stomach if you choose to visit the Pedley St Arch, since this is still where people go to urinate and defecate out of hours, and occasionally you will find homeless people taking shelter or dodgy builders dumping rubbish.
But more likely – these days – you will encounter the making of a Hip Hop music video or a fashion shoot for urban streetwear.
If there is such a thing as heritage of grime, Pedley St Arch has it in spades.
Belgian painter Alfonse Van Besten (1865-1926) (pictured above) embraced technology, utilizing innovative color processes to transfer black and white photographs into vivid, at times lurid Autochromes.
The tableaux of his Autochromes (a technology patented by the Lumière brothers in 1903 and the first color photographic process developed on an industrial scale) are often bucolic and romantic.
Here is a dreamy Autochrome photo collection that he shot from 1910 to 1915.
An unusual creation from the studio of André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, (circa. 1862) the French photographer (pictured below) best known for inventing the hugely popular “carte de visite”.
In this wonderful example, titled “Les Jambes de l’Opera”, Disdéri has created a collage composed entirely of legs belonging to opera (and ballet) stars
Although his patent on the “carte de visite” initially made him extremely wealthy, Disdéri ended up dying a penniless man.
His system of reproducing photographs was itself so easy to reproduce that photographers soon did so without Disdéri benefiting, and the format was replaced in the late 1860s by the larger cabinet card format.
Sea-Monkeys is a brand name for brine shrimp—a group of crustaceans that undergo cryptobiosis—sold in hatching kits as novelty aquarium pets. Developed in 1957 by Harold von Braunhut, the product was heavily marketed, especially in comic books, and remains a presence in popular culture.
16 May is National Sea-Monkey Day in the United States.
Ant farms had been popularised in 1956 by Milton Levine. Harold von Braunhut invented a brine-shrimp-based product the next year, 1957.
Von Braunhut collaborated with marine biologist Dr. Anthony D’Agostino to develop the proper mix of nutrients and chemicals in dry form that could be added to plain tap water to create a purified habitat for the shrimp to thrive. Von Braunhut was granted a patent for this process.
Initially called “Instant Life” von Braunhut changed the name to “Sea-Monkeys” in 1962.
The new name was based on the supposed resemblance of the animals’ tails to those of monkeys, and their salt-water habitat.
Sea-Monkeys were intensely marketed in comic books using illustrations by the comic-book illustrator Joe Orlando. These showed humanoid animals that bear no resemblance to the crustaceans.
Many purchasers were disappointed by the dissimilarity, and by the short lifespan of the animals.
Von Braunhut is quoted as stating: “I think I bought something like 3.2 million pages of comic book advertising a year. It worked beautifully”.