Bag-wash is one of a series of photographs that Nigel Henderson took when he was living in London’s East End in the late 1940s and early 1950s. It shows a detail of the window of a laundry.
I go to this part of London as I have English students who live in Mile End and near Canary Wharf. It’s full of anomalies: some new and many still old corners.
Henderson uses the grid of the window frame to structure his composition. A collection of signs are displayed within the window’s eleven glass panes, some clear and legible, others partially erased.
These signs advertising the ‘bag wash’ and the other services of the laundry are either attached to the inside of the glass or painted directly onto it. The painted script has aged, the whitewash that once formed its background is scratched and worn, and the paper sign on the upper left is creased and