photographic index

ba digital photography london south bank university

Kate Anthony


Title: Palon Kor

Artist: Kate Anthony

Type: Inkjet photographic print

Date: May 2007

Description:Visual representation of Bengali girls dress style in Shadwell East London. It suggests that a girls fashion style is a good indicator of the level of religion practiced in her home. Image completed May 2007. Made in response to Anita Corbin’s photographic series ‘Visible Girls’, Girls Subcultures box held at the London South Bank University, London.

A series of 4 images.

Subject: girls, subcultures

Measurements: 40x48cm

Location: London South Bank University Digital Photography Dept

ID Number: PI-RGSB-KA0001-KA004

Licensing: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales, Kate Anthony c/o London South Bank University, Digital Photography Course, UK

Palon Kor is the Bengali word for observe, the first mass scale youth observation was carried out in the east end in the 1850’s and this project looks at another group of youths Bengali girls set in that area in the present time. It sets out to explore the variety of dress styles seen and suggests

The way a girl dresses is a good gauge of the level of her or her family’s religious belief.

Social explorers documented life as they saw it in London’s East End slums in the 1850’s. “The most celebrated sighting of a working class youths culture in this period occurs in Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor (1851), in a section devoted to the quasi-criminal costermongers” this term refers to young boys who from a barrow sold fruit and vegetables. These youngsters had a very distinctive style of dress known as ‘flash’, in addition to this they used their own street language (slang) consisting of backwards speak and rhyming. Using footage that documented these children lives enabled people with a social conscience to help start changes in the legal system and to set up organizations aimed a bettering the lives of slum dwellers. Schools and educational centres were set up for costermongers and others like them. Here mass photographic indexing was performed to archive the youth “it indicates a new departive: the systematic monitoring by means of photographic plates and daguerreotypes of potential juvenile offender” in the latter part of the nineteenth century several books were published documenting the “quaint, low life types” Hebdige calls it us and them, we the liberal and concerned and they objects for us to pity, fear and be fascinated by.

Palon Kor reinterprets the journey of the 19th century social explorer, observing and creating a visual index of contemporary youth cultures in London’s 2007 east end. Hebdige mentions East London slums when referring to the original archives. Palon Kor is similarly set within this geographical location, specifically the London Bough of Tower Hamlets ward of Shadwell. PK originated as a contemporary interpretation of Anita Corbin’s 1981 work visible girls and to keep a sense on continuity this archive will be centred on female subjects. For this work to be fresh and show a social group that is relatively undocumented this work is centred on the Bengali girls from the Biglands Estate area in Shadwell. This area has one of the highest Bengali populations in the country, 49.03% of the borough is classified as Bengali (2001 census); of these 5,922 people 3,066 are Bengali born. the streets surrounding Biglands Estate has a thriving Bengali business community independent of multinational corporations, businesses such as clothing shops, food sellers and providers, travel agents and furniture shops to name but a few.

When this assignment was set there were three rough guidelines to contemplate, the one most relevant to the work produced here is ‘the role of ethnic identity as strategies of negotiation between the traditional and the contemporary cultures, and as affirmation of local urban Identity (inner city districts). This project is a visual interpretation of the different ways the young women present themselves. Over the period of time this study was done one thing was noted, a girls dress code is a good indicator of how religious the environment she lives in is. When wandering around the area that the project is set it is hard not to notice the ethnic identity of any female that you see, the majority wear a headscarf and salwar kameez (a cotton suit similar in shape and style to pyjamas). There are equal numbers of girls that wear a mix of western and Asian cloths with or without a headscarf. Not as many but still a noticeable amount to other areas in London wear a complete facial veil, one observation was the number that wore western clothing and a veil. The photographs chosen are an attempt to show the range of clothing worn in this area. Using Saussures theory about the language of signs called semiotics I began to try and interoperate the meaning of a girls fashion and clothing style.

Much of the information that is within this essay is word of mouth and not referenced from academic text, talking to the local girls and women has given answers as well as two years of observing this community as a neighbour and as someone who attended the local mosque to learn a bit about the culture. It has been hard backing up these statements with pure academic facts, giving reason to think that there is room within the academic field to study this group of females more to record what has been observed. It would be of interest to find out the figures regarding Muslims who have over time become more religious since arriving in this country and since the war on terror after the 9/11 bombings in the United States.

Anita Corbin’s Visible Girls looked at a broad spectrum of females at that time, PK is an attempt to visually show Bengali girls and the various ways these girls present themselves to the public. It was very hard getting the selection of images that I finally chose; regardless of how they dressed they were still extremely shy and distrustful of the photographer. This was a good lesson in people skills, not only in gaining trust but also in realizing that the picture is not everything. Talking to the girls and finding a little about them and there lives gave out much more information that a photo would of, thought these numerous conversations it was possible to build up the bank of verbal information to bring this project together. In future recording the person will be more beneficial so that if this work was to be taken further in the academic field it would evidence to reference.

Documenting these girls was hard for several reasons; generally when seen outside they are going somewhere or retiring home, more often than not in pairs or small groups. Unlike the Bengali boys who group about on all the corners and outside shops in the area. There a several reasons this could be, mainly parental control over daughters and domestic duties within the home. Within a community where arranged marriage is the norm Friths argument that “marriage is a girl’s career and the source of the constrains on her leisure. This argument can be pushed further: a girl’s leisure is her work. It is leisure activates that are the setting for the start of her career, for the attraction of a man suitable for marriage”. (1978, pg66). Although Frith was not examining a Muslim community when this statement was made, it transforms well to the modern day Muslim family. An arranged marriage is seen as something quite different to the way the average westerner sees it. Most girls understand that their family honour is at risk if they do not remain a virgin and mixing with boys is just not done. Outside of the home girls have the mosque and education, very little else is on offer for them. On a Saturday the local libraries are full of groups of girls, here is one place they can congregate at ease.

Reflecting on the project as a whole it was clear by the end that I lacked direction in what I wanted to do. Initially I had photographed seven girls at various functions, all from different sub-cultures. When they were shown at a peer criticism session I gauged that the tutors did not quite think there was enough there. It was only in the last few weeks I chose to centre solely on the Bengali girls, as I am living within this community I saw it’s potential but again did not know where to go with it. I could see a million good images but did not fully know how or what to do with it academically, in the twenty-four hour period toward the end of the project I heard that there was a really good local history library with good photo archives. If I carry on with this project in my own time I will endeavour to visit this library, I would have liked to back up what I have seen with twenty five years worth of images that show the progressive change in girls dress style. There is also a local photographer that documented the community in the 70’s that I have only just heard about, I would like to see the images he took. By networking with others who have worked in this field previously I would like to attempt to compile an archive that documents the change in girls clothing style over the past twenty five years. Now that I have gained the trust of several local girls I will continue to photograph them and hope that this will extend the network of youth in the area that I know and can work with. Islam is such a topical subject and the area of female clothing a very heated discussion, creating an archive to run with any academic finding is defiantly worth further work.

To summarize this essay is in conjunction with the set of images titled ‘Palon Kor’ that represent the variety of dress styles seen worn by Bengali girls in Shadwell. This area was chosen as it was one of the first locations of mass surveilance and archiving a youth culture in the 1850’s. It presents the theory that Bengali woman have changed their style of dress over the past two decades from traditional Bengali clothing to a variety of other styles. Through conversations with girls it is suggested that the style of clothing worn by a girl is a good indicator of the level of religion in her home.

‘It’s real. And people need to see reality and reality needs to be documented’

Jessica Dimmock(2007)



Barnard, M. (2002), Fashion as Communication, London: Routledge,

Brake, M. (1995),Comparative Youth Culture, London: Routlege,

Evans, J. (1999),The Camerawork essays. London: Rivers Oram Press

Photographic Index Reader


Foam, #9 (2007), Eden, Netherlands :Magic Group,

Dazed and Confused




Weegie by Weegie

On Shot

Classic Glamour Photography

Photo Legends

Burlesque-Legendry Stars of Stage

Fashion Now

Icons of 20th century Photographs

Martin Parr-pre 2000 works

Intersection-Slawmir Zulawinski


Don McCullens works

Carlo Mollino

Wolfgan Tillman

Nan Golding

2 Responses

  1. alisha says:

    Hi my name is Alisha and I work for the Independent Music Awards. The awards program has added a Concert Photography category to our list and design categories that also include Music Video, Packaging and Merchandise.

    I am reaching out to photographers alike who would be interested in learning more about how to enter the IMAs for this category. I’ve included some info below:

    The IMA Concert Photography category is open to all photographs of a live performance by an Independent musician or band taken between July 2007 and August 2008. Program winners are promoted to more than 15 million music fans and industry insiders via yearlong print, broadcast and online promotions.

    Deadline for the upcoming Independent Music Awards is August 22, 2008. Details and entry forms are available at:

    If you’d like to get more info, or have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact me, Alisha on here or my email: You can also contact Joelle Caputa:, 973-509-9896 for more details!

    Check out our IMA page on facebook and myspace too!

    Thanks and good luck!

  2. Chay Honey says:

    The images here are somewhat subjective to the photographer. In her statement, she states herself as a ‘neighbour’ to her choice of location, the Biglands Estate. She also mentions her experience of attending the local mosque, to observe the culture she endeavoured to study.
    This has clearly helped identify her main observation in regards to different levels of clothing relating to varied levels of devout religion. The interpretation of the project develops further when within the statement she discusses her initial ideas and goes on to mention how she chose to focus more locally and on smaller differences rather than trying to captivate an otherwise unfamiliar setting. These smaller similarities are what bring the set of images together well. The composition of the images works well, especially ‘Umbrella’, which denotes a true sense of Bengali women in Britain.
    Although as a viewer I have a baseline knowledge (through experience and media) to the extent of dress codes within the religion, the photos truly depict 4 differences in individuals that share a common belief system, each representing their faith with the clothing they choose to wear. It also explores varied strictness within the religion, clearly represented by each Bengali girl’s choice(?) of dress code.

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