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Street Life in London 1877. J.Thomson & A.Smith

The project “Street Life in London’ was created in 19th century by the radical journalist Adolphe Smith and the photographer John Thomson. The monthly magazine, that was publishing from 1876 to 1877 included texts and images of people on the London’s streets. That was a new genre of social documentary photography, which preceded the appearance of photojournalism. Their work captured the life of ordinary people who eked out a precarious and marginal existence.
There were shoe-blacks, chair-caners, musicians, flower-sellers, and many others. The interest to the urban poverty gives the authors the reputation of the pioneers in photojournalism and their project now considered as a classic instance of social documentary.
Later, in 1878, the photographs were published in book form. The verses of this book were scanned and now stored in British Library of Political and Economic Science, which is located in London.
John Thomson was a talented and influential photographer, who had spent ten years travelling in, and taking photographs of, the Far East. On his return to London he joined with Adolphe Smith, a socialist journalist, in a project to photograph the street life of the London poor. The volumes were published in monthly parts as Street Life in London, and were an early example of social and documentary photography. Street Life in London, published in 1876-7, consists of a series of articles by the radical journalist Adolphe Smith and the photographer John Thomson. The pieces are short but full of detail, based on interviews with a range of men and women who eked out a precarious and marginal existence working on the streets of London, including flower-sellers, chimney-sweeps, shoe-blacks, chair-caners, musicians, dustmen and locksmiths.
Covent Garden Labourers
35 Media in collectionpage 1 of 1

Italian Street Musicians

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:.. Then there is something irresistible in the bright glitter of his eyes, in. his cheerful gait, and his fascinating manners; While English... more

The Temperance Sweep

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith. This chapter recounts the life story of John Day, which begins:..'Born in Lambeth, the son of a road-mender, John Day was sent out to work ... more

Dealers in Fancy-Ware

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..'The accompanying photograph represents a street group gathered round a dealer whose barrow is one of the most attractive I have seen duri... more

"Hookey Alf" of Whitechapel

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..“Thus in the photograph before us we have the calm undisturbed face of the skilled artisan, who has spent a life of tranquil, useful labou... more

“Strawberries. All ripe! All ripe!” - The Street Fruit Trade

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:.. The season for strawberries, the most delicious of English fruits, has ended. This delicacy was brought in numberless barrow- loads to th... more

A Convicts Home

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith... In Drury Lane there is a house which has been celebrated for more than a century. It was a "cook-shop" in Jack Sheppard’s time.... more

London Nomades

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith..The class of Nomades with which I propose to deal makes some show of industry. These people attend fairs, markets, and hawk cheap ornaments... more

The Crawlers

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..“But old age, and want of proper food and rest, reduces them to a lethargic condition which can scarcely be preferable to death itself. It... more

"Tickets" the Card-Dealer

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith. This chapter tells of the life of a man nicknamed "Tickets":.."About this time "Tickets" made the acquaintance of ... more

The Independent Shoe-Black

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..“The independent boot-black whose photograph is before the reader, found by experience that the system instituted was not altogether pleas... more

"Mush-Fakers" and Ginger-Beer Makers

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..“At Clapham Common - where the accompanying photograph was taken - Hampstead, Greenwich, Battersea Park, etc etc, on a broiling summer's d... more

The Street Locksmith

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..“The owner of the stall in the accompanying photograph had, however, a different story to tell concerning keys. He possessed some keys whi... more

November Effigies

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..The accompanying photograph is that of a nondescript guy, somewhat clumsily built up by a costermonger who lives in the south-east of Lond... more

Recruiting Sergeants

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith.."Recruiting in London is almost exclusively circumscribed to the district stretching between the St. George's Barracks, Trafalgar Squa... more

The Cheap Fish of St-Giles

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:.. Awaiting the moment when the costermonger is able to procure a barrow of his own he must pay eighteen pence per week for the cost of hiri... more

London Cabmen

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith..…Despite the traditional hoarse voice, rough appearance, and quarrelsome tone, cab-drivers are as a rule reliable and honest men, who can b... more

Old Furniture

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:.. At the corner of Church Lane, Holborn, there was a second-hand furniture dealer, whose business was a cross between that of a shop and a ... more

Covent Garden Labourers

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith...“…the accompanying photograph represents a group of labourers who are in the service of Mr. Dickson, the well-known florist. Their busines... more

Halfpenny Ices

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith... Italian ice men constitute a distinct feature of London life, which, however, IS generally Ignored by the public at large, so far as It’s... more

The Wall Worker

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith...“…The wall working or fence working, described by Parker as a " fine property," is a system of cheap advertising. Where a porti... more

London Boardmen

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..“I had, for instance, an occasion of discussing with two boardmen who seemed worthy of a better position. The first had been trained as a ... more

The Sellers of Shell-fish

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..‘“But it's hard to pick up money on the streets; there is so many at the same game now, that it's about all we can do to get food. Fridays... more

Cast-Iron Billy

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:.. ““Forty-three years on the road, and more," said Cast-iron Billy; “and, but for my ‘rheumatics’ I feel almost as 'ale and 'earty as ... more

Caney the Clown

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..'After playing in many provincial theatres, Caney finally made his debut in London on the boards of the old Garrick, the Britannia, and th... more

Black Jack

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:.. Jack stood charged with cutting and wounding the donkeys with a heavy flail-like instrument. At the request of the magistrate the instrum... more

The Water-Cart

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..“The men employed on the water carts work according to the state of the weather. Thus, in summer under a hot dry wind, they emerge at earl... more

Public Disinfectors

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith.....While reducing the general death-rate, our recent sanitary legislation has called into existence a class of men who must of necessity be... more

An Old Clothes Shop, Seven Dials

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith..."The accompanying photograph represents a second-hand clothes shop in a narrow thoroughfare of St. Giles, appropriately called Lumber... more

Flying Dustmen

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:. The removal of dust and refuse from the houses of the metropolis is a task which devolves on the officers of the various parishes. Althoug... more

Clapham Common Industries

Photography on the Common / Waiting for a Hire..From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thompson and Adolphe Smith:..'I know of one photographer, who obtained on Clapham Common no less than thirty-six shill... more

Street Advertising

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:..'There is a certain knack required in pasting a bill on a rough board, so that it shall spread out smoothly, and be easily read by every p... more

Workers on the "Silent Highway"

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith:.. There are, undoubtedly, many most honest, hard-working, and in every sense worthy men, who hold licences from the Watermen's Company, or ... more

Street Doctor

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith..The subject of the accompanying illustration is a vendor of cough lozenges and healing ointment. He was originally a car-driver employed by... more

Covent Garden Flower Women

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith..…How different is the Covent Garden of to-day, with its bustle and din, its wealth and pauperism, its artifices, its hot-house flowers and ... more

The Dramatic Shoe-Black

From 'Street Life in London', 1877, by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith... Jacobus Parker, Dramatic Reader, Shoe-Black, and Peddler, is represented in the accompanying photograph standing at his accustomed pitch.... more