Art Book of the Month, May 2016

Photograph by Jeffrey Bernard, in 'Soho Night and Day' by Frank Norman

Soho Night and Day by Frank Norman
Photographer: Jeffrey Bernard
Secker & Warburg, 1966


“At the time I was fourteen years of age and the war had just ended, and I was let loose on the world. I must own that every single word my worthy headmaster had to say has turned out to be God’s honest truth. Loose women can indeed get you into a lot of trouble and drink can destroy you both mentally and physically and as for gambling it is a curse that can end you in the poorhouse. However there was one thing my headmaster did not tell me and that is the best place in the world to find these things is Soho – that I found out for myself.”
– Frank Norman, 1966

“Life can be only understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.”
– Søren Kierkegaard, 1843

A grainy black and white love letter to Soho, colourfully put together by two of its gloriously infamous honorary grand dames, Jeffrey Bernard and Frank Norman. Far from being a chronicle of the cool and trendy, Bernard’s photos and Norman’s unsentimental, charming narrative introduce an array of characters from the seedy to the seductive – shop keepers, market traders, restaurateurs, café owners, models and sex workers – that were once an integral part of street life and of a specific ‘on the bum’ style, the passing of which is much lamented by Norman. We are taken on a journey back to a not-that-distant past that may as well be one million years ago, in these days of semi-permanent road-digging, refurbishment and coffee chains.

Photograph by Jeffrey Bernard, in 'Soho Night and Day' by Frank Norman

“The Welfare State is not I feel the only reason for the sharp decline in bummery.  Another reason is the redevelopment schemes, which have caused many of the old haunts to be razed to the ground by destruction firms and built anew by construction firms, where once stood a dingy café now stands a towering sky-scraper, which is air-conditioned and centrally heated..”

Plus ça change, eh!

You can view this book in the Art & Design Collection at Westminster Reference Library.

[Rossella]

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