A historical family picture helped inspire a photographer to capture a visual document of a tight community of East London high street traders and businesses that will go on public display from Monday.

From greengrocers and butchers to cafes, nail bars and an undertaker, Russell Boyce has photographed a total of 33 shop keepers, business owners and staff who work on Wanstead High Street.

You can enjoy a selection of Russell's pictures by scrolling down this page and also watch a video he made of the project.

Those shop keepers will be treated to a preview of the exhibition this evening before they go on display outside the Temple in Wanstead Park from Monday until March 31.

Russell, who lives in Wanstead and worked at Reuters for more than 20 years, explained the idea for the project stemmed from a picture of his wife’s great-grandfather’s shop in Reigate dating back more than 100 years.

He said: “From as early as the Victorians and Edwardians photographs have been taken of shop keepers proudly posing in front of their businesses. Fascinated by this long tradition I photographed the business owners and staff who work on my local high street in Wanstead.

"I was curious to know when the business owners set up shop and why. I also wanted to understand what they think the future holds for the high street given the challenges of online shopping, rising costs and the impact of the Covid pandemic.”

As a nod to this long tradition of photographing shop keepers, Russell used a 1966 Rolleiflex camera and shot black and white film for the project sponsored by Stow Brothers Estate Agents.

He photographed all the staff outside their shop and the owners inside, and asked each owner these questions - their name and name of their business, when and why they opened their business and what they think the future holds for the high street. Russell videoed their answers and added the strongest quote to the picture caption.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Owner of Caesars Palace Cafe and Sandwich Bar Bayram Ali Acar, his daughter Elif Acar, son, Ahmet Acar, nephew, Mustafa Acar, Mustafa Doymus and Marguerite Wimborne, who they describe as the ‘manager’ as she is in the cafe every day, outside their café on Wanstead High Street, London, September 11, 2021.     

"I think it will be kept much the same on the High Street just because we don’t like change and maybe there won’t be much change around this High Street. Overall, it’s looking good. So, we’ll carry on, it will be good for the future."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Anna Orpwood, Equity Partner for Edwards Duthie Shamash Solicitors poses for a picture outside their business with colleagues, Rezwana Dithy, Solicitor, Saira Farook, Solicitor, Asya Erol, Solicitor and Akvile Guzaite, trainee solicitor on Wanstead High Street, London, October 7, 2021.    

"I think sadly, probably, some high streets in some areas are not going to be able to reinvent itself sadly. This is because of online shopping and things like that; but in an area like Wanstead people are quite passionate about the High Street, you go out there and it’s a very buzzy kind of High Street. So, I think this High Street will be okay."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

The owner of Wanstead Fish Kevin Murphy stands with staff, Georgie-Belle Horwood, Grace Miell and Paulius Cerniauskas outside his fish mongers on Wanstead High Street, London, July 10, 2021.     

"A lot more people are shopping on the High Street and we have reason to be more optimistic now. At one time it was being taken over by chains, but hopefully that has stopped and we will keep most of the independent shops that we’ve got. I’d like to think so anyway, we shall see."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Owner of the Purbani Indian Restaurant Saju Ali poses for a picture with his team Jakir Hussain, Imam Talukdar, Fardush Miah, Dulal Rahman, M.R. Beg Khukon, Kohlnoor and Mujibur Rahman outside his restaurant on Wanstead High Street August 14, 2021.

"The business was opened by my father in 1970. It’s been a family run business for many years and it’s still continuing now. The future of the High Street is very hard to predict. You’ve got a new generation coming in, the old generation moving out. We won’t know until we see the future."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Owner of shop, Tool Box, Imran Asghar stands with his father Ali Asghar and his brother Nasir Asghar in front of their shop on Wanstead High Street, London, August 25, 2021. Imran opened this store September 2015 after working in another store in Ilford for 15 years.

"I believe a lot of people think the high streets are going to die with online, but I think they will flourish. I think the Covid has actually taught us quite a bit about the High Street. it’s made us respect and appreciate what we’ve got on the High Street more. Just to go into shops speak to people, get customer service and actually just look at the product you’re buying. Online sales will take out a portion, but I don’t think High Street is ever going to die."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Manager of The Ginger Pig butchers, Lajos Gulyas poses with his staff Harabagiu Nicolae, Ewelina Gbyl, Vlasta Ivanovova and Keith Harrison outside their shop on Wanstead high Street, London, October 22, 2021.  

"I think in the High Street prices are going up because of the pandemic so business goes down a lot. Even so, I hope everything will be fine but it’s not easy."