Jack Paynton

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Jack Paynton was born in 1908 in Bethnal Green in the East End of London. He was the son of Jewish migrants fleeing the Russian pogroms in Belarus and named Jakob Pogorelsky. He changed his name to Paynton (along with his brother Joe) in 1930. Joe and Jack were close in age, and both removed from school at 14 because the family needed the boys to be working.

The earliest photographs date from the mid 1920s when he was a teenager, when he must have got his hands on a plate camera. There are a few portraits of his parents, his brother's marriage and some snaps from what must have been a 21st birthday trip to Cuckmere in Sussex with his brother Joe and friends. There are several examples of semi-abstract images, playing with form and sometimes experimenting.

The early 1930s are marked by some images of industry, including some shots of typesetting and other print processes.

He meets Olive Dyke in the early 1930s and they marry in 1937. Their holidays in Europe, including Norway, Switzerland and the South of France are well documented. Jack begins to take an interest in the characters he encounters, and there are some lovely portraits of people going about their daily business as well as general views of places which have today changed beyond recognition.

As the 30s draw to their close, Olive and Jack visit Yugoslavia visiting Dubrovnik, Sarajevo and many other destinations which are today unrecognisable. There is a resonance to these images from a Europe which would shortly be devastated by the approaching war.

There are no more photographs for ten years.

In 1948 Olive gives birth to Anna. She was born with a hole in her heart and only lived for a few months.

Jack picks up his camera again the following year to document his surroundings, first in Belsize Park and then Hampstead. This was then an area full of crumbling old mansions, occupied by a vibrant mixture of arty types and Jewish refugees, many of them Viennese psychoanalysts attracted by Sigmund Freud's presence just off Fitzjohns Avenue.

Then David and Joanna are born and Jack's eye turns to documenting the growth of his family at home and on holiday in the UK. These final images show a man who has travelled a long way from Brick Lane, to a large Victorian semi in leafy Hampstead complete with a wife and two children. He hangs up his camera in the mid sixties and concentrates that fierce gaze on making a glorious garden.

Jack's daughter Jo muses
here about her father and what discovering the collection has meant to her as an artist and painter.

© 2020 Joanna Lamb/David Paynton