Chingford black cab driver stars in national historical project showcasing London's oldest professions

By Suzi Muston in Events

A BLACK cab driver from Chingford is starring in a national history project showcasing London’s oldest professions.

Kevin Bell is part of a project that has brought images of British workers (between 1870 and 1920,) back to life.

Kevin’s photo is also the focus of a historic commentary by historian and professor Kate Williams who has documented the changing life of a cab driver over the last 100 years.  

The campaign explores how technology has transformed some of London’s longest-standing occupations.

Historian Professor Kate Williams, has explored the lives portrayed in the photographs and how they have changed.

She said: “What these images show is how technology changed these roles at different paces.

“Many people will be surprised to know that by 1900, when the first ‘point-and-shoot’ camera came to market revolutionising the way photographers worked, the abacus was still being used in the classroom! The calculator was an invention in 1967 so students had to rely on textbooks and their teacher for assurance of more complex arithmetic.

“The twentieth century also saw huge change for the role of the nurse. At the time the picture was taken in 1900, nursing was only just being seen as a profession thanks to Florence Nightingale – but even then most of the work was domestic – cleaning and rolling bandages – as the technical side of medical care was performed by doctors.”

The historic photographs were colourised by colouriser Matt Loughrey and recreated with their modern day equivalents.

Kevin features as the modern day black cab driver from a photo taken of a Hansom cab driver in 1900.

The collection of professions from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century with their modern-day counterparts in ‘sleeve-face’ style photography.

Other professions include a teacher, nurse, messenger boy, photographer and painter.

They were chosen to highlight how little of today’s technology was available at the time to do jobs that we still rely on today.

To create the modern-day photographs, Matt Loughrey spent six days digitally restoring the black and white archive photos in full colour to ensure they could blend with present-day backdrops.

Matt himself features in one of the portraits, taking the place of a painter who was photographed at work in 1876.

Matt said: “What struck me is how similar we are to these people, even after 100 years.

“Seeing them side by side shows in a way, that nothing has changed – behind the transformation that technology has brought to the roles, the people have the same aspirations, family lives and routines as us.”

Like his counterpart from the nineteenth century, Matt Loughrey does all his work by hand but can only do this using a touch screen tablet and specialist software which enables him to reveal the hidden colours and bring them to the surface.

He added: “I source the colours accurately using an algorithm that matches monochrome shades to their colour equivalents in red, green and blue hues.

“It’s a painstaking process but endlessly rewarding because other people get the same out of the final photograph as I do when they look at it – a chance for self-reflection and connection with people from centuries ago.”

d Kevin Bell, - he is currently referenced as Kevin Black in your article (please see email below).

Computer firm Dell were the brain child behind the radical new concept of bringing together the colourist and the historian, as well as the modern day participants like Kevin.

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