London's East End Synagogues, cemeteries and more......

Site map of my personal journey through the Jewish East End of London


Boris Bennett - Jewish East End Photographer to the Stars!!

Boris Bennett“You knew you’d arrived if Boris took your photograph.” So said the daughter of one of Boris’s many satisfied customers to me recently.  And it was true.  Before the War Boris was so sought after that couples would queue on the stairs of his Whitechapel Road studio on Sunday mornings waiting to be immortalised by his lens, while outside, crowds would watch the brides arriving.  Boris Bennett’s distinctive style used romantic flowing dresses, lavish bouquets and immaculate tailoring.  Perfection and beauty was his purpose and he made all his brides glamorous.  One commentator described him as the man who brought Hollywood to the East End, and today his work is much sought after by collectors.  His work was not confined to family simchas for he also photographed famous personalities, including Chaim Weitzman and Itzhak Ben-Zvi, both of whom went on to become presidents of the state of Israel. 

Boris Bennett's former studio at 14 Whitechapel RdBoris Bennett's studio in its primeBoris Bennett was born Boris Sochaczewska in 1900 in Poland.  His father was a Zionist and an organiser for the cause.  Boris was also a keen Zionist.  At the age of 18 Boris left Poland to work in a photographic studio in Paris.  He moved to London in 1922 to work as a sales representative.   He made his mark as a photographer when he settled in the East End, and he worked there from 1927 to 1945.  In 1927 He opened his first studio at 150 Whitechapel Road.  In 1933 he moved to his best known studio at 14 Whitechapel Road ('Barones'- photo left). The photo on the right is the studio in its pre war prime.  In keeping with Boris's style and image, he employed a commissionaire to stand in the studio doorway to meet and greet clients.  Until 1937 a former Billingsgate fish porter named Sidney Long held this post.  His photo is below:

Sidney Long - Commissionaire at Boris Bennett's studio, 14 Whitechapel Road

Boris was quoted as saying that sometimes when couples were queuing to be photographed he was tempted to rearrange them to create more perfect matches.  From this he got the nickname ‘Boris itch to switch’.  With his own bride Julia he had no such temptation.  On the day she came to his studio for a passport photograph he was so enraptured that he proposed to her there and then.  They married in 1929.  As Boris achieved fame and fortune he used his position to help others, including assistance with the purchase a house in Finchley Road to provide shelter and support for young Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.  Later he left photography to become a successful financier.  Towards the end of his life he would look back on his days in the East End with much affection and say, “What a wonderful Jewish World it was!”  Boris Bennett died at the age of 85 in 1985.

Below is a selection of his work - double click the photos to enlarge

A Boris Bennett front cover

Bridesmaid at a Ruda Family wedding

Bridesmaids at another Ruda family wedding

Ruth Rebecca Taylor 1939 - not sure if this is a 'Boris' photo, but it is in a Boris mounting. Ruth's mother was a member of the Ruda family

The wedding of Evelyn Ruda to David Taylor. The Ruda family owned Ruda's wet fish shop in Wentworth Street

Unknown, friend of Lily Armani

Boxer Harry Mason, 1903 - 1977

Harry Mason was from Fellbrigg St, Bethnal Green. He claimed that no opponent had ever ruffled his hair. He often played the violin and recited poetry from inside the ropes to unsettle his opponents. He became British and European Lighteweight champion. (Information from the website of the London ex-Boxers Association)

Barnett Brampton and Annie Saltzman, married 23 January 1936. They had one child.

Barnett Brompton was born in Oxford Street (no longer exists), Stepney, behind the hospital. He had a draper’s shop in Tottenham. Original family name was Aliershivtz, which changed to Abrahams. Barnett changed the family name to Brampton for business reasons.

Alfred Marks and Iris Spiro married 1936. They had no children. Alfred Marks was a Gents Hairdresser.

In a bombing raid in Stepney during WWII, Iris was killed along with her mother, her sister-in-law and her sister-in-law’s two sons.

Geoffrey Alexander b. late 1930s

Unknown couple

Mounting of a Boris Photo

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