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Margaret Monck was a street photographer in London who enjoyed taking candid photographs for personal rather than professional reasons.
Monck spent her childhood in India, where her father was Viceroy. Having moved to London, she studied drawing at Heatherley's School of Fine Art, Chelsea. Monck became an assistant at the Impressionist and Modern Art Lefevre Gallery, which was established in 1926 in the West End. She also modelled for Norman Parkinson, which introduced her to high society and the most fashionable circles.
In 1932 Monck married John Goldman, a film editor, and her social circle grew to include musicians, filmmakers, political activists and photographers. Goldman was editor-in-chief for the documentary film Man of Aran, directed by Robert Flaherty. His wife, Frances Flaherty, was the stills photographer and, inspired by these contacts, Monck discovered her interest in and talent for photography.
Monck bought a new 'miniature camera', a Leica. Being a hand-held rollfilm camera, it was relatively easy to operate and unobtrusive, therefore ideal for documentary photographing.
By 1934 Monck was taking daily trips to the East End, photographing in Limehouse, Shadwell and the Docklands. She also visited Portland Town near Camden a number of times and 'Little Italy' in Saffron Hill, Clerkenwell.
Monck was attracted to each of these places by the poorer working-class people living there. A sympathetic social observer, she often concentrated in her photographs on the vitality of people rather than their living conditions and poverty. Her photographs are romantic and emotive in style as well as being influenced by her artistic and cinematic knowledge. She usually concentrated on street life.
Her social and political concerns were similar to those of many social observers documenting in the 1930s East End, such as her friend, photographer Edith Tudor Hart. However, Monck photographed to satisfy her personal fascination with social contrasts, rather than as a radical activist.
Monck photographed regularly until 1939. She also recorded an oral history for the British Library in 1990, a year before her death. Examples of her photography are held in the Museum of London.
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