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British Museum Chases ‘Windrush’ Migrants in Forgotten Images – International News News – Report by AFR

The anonymous face of a new arrival towered over Prince William last month at the unveiling of a national memorial to the “Windrush” generation of Caribbean migrants in London.

A fresh-faced young man is elegantly dressed in a bow tie and trilby hat. A woman, possibly his wife or sister, stands to his right and looks sideways at the camera.

Nervous anticipation is written all over their faces.

But the identities of the well-dressed people on the platform of London’s Waterloo station, waiting for their new lives to begin, have been a mystery.

A search has now been launched to identify the young couple and others who arrived that day in 1962.

Britain’s National Railway Museum in York, northern England, has acquired some of the photographs and has attempted to name the faces and tell their stories.

The “Windrush” migrants are named after the ship MV Empire Windrush, one of the ships that brought workers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and other islands after World War II to help fill Britain’s labor shortages.

– Underexposed –

The photos show the new arrivals already being greeted in the UK by friends and family. There are smiles and hugs as families are reunited.

Others seem uncertain, thoughtful. In one, a family of four with two young children, all dressed in their Sunday clothes, waits by a newspaper kiosk.

In another, a man in a striped tie listens intently as something is explained to him. Bags and old-fashioned suitcases are piled up on the platform.

But the faces of the newcomers were all but lost to history, only recently coming to light thanks to new technology — and the determination of the man who took the pictures.

On the day the migrants arrived, a young London photographer named Howard Gray had an idea.

He took a break from his job photographing women’s corsets and decided to do a bit of reportage.

Hopefully, he thought, he could capture a historic moment – the last major arrival of Caribbean migrants in Britain before new laws imposed far stricter entry restrictions.

But when he got to the train station on an overcast day in March or April, he said he quickly realized the lighting conditions were so bad the photos would be unusable.

“The glass roof of Waterloo Station at the time was covered in dirt from the outside,” Gray, now 80, told AFP.

“It turned the light yellow, so when I took these pictures I knew I was going to really fight that.”

After about 20 minutes, Gray said he realized he hadn’t received anything and went back to work.

“I developed them the next day and I was right – there was nothing. They were all underexposed.”

Despite his disappointment, something kept him from throwing away the negatives as he usually did with failed projects.

– New scanner –

In fact, his own family background as refugees from what is now Ukraine subconsciously tied him to the subject.

“Since my family were immigrants from the Jewish pogroms in the 1900s, I was always raised with their stories and the stories of family friends who had relatives in the Holocaust.

“It was that kind of horror, it gave me unconscious fear of immigration, the fear of the asylum seeker or refugee,” he added.

Instead, Gray put the negatives in an envelope and stashed them in a drawer, where they stayed for about 50 years.

Decades later, after a successful career as a commercial photographer, the London-based Gray had almost completely forgotten about the negatives in the envelope.

“One day I got a new scanner and just thought I’d give it a try,” he said.

“I took three scans of the same negative and made it into one, and it (the image) just popped up, like invisible ink. I was surprised. It was a eureka moment.”

It is hoped that those in the photos, or their relatives, will recognize their faces and get in touch so their stories can be told as part of a major National Railway Museum exhibition planned for 2024.

“The images are incredibly special and very beautiful in their own right, but we don’t really know who the people in them are,” said a spokesman for the museum.

“We want their stories to be told properly so that we can give them the kind of justice and respect they deserve,” he added.

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