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 during my wanderings about town. The story of its owner was narrated to me in the following words :-.[...].“There are now too many 'swags' and most of them ain't the gentlemen they used to be. I should say there are 1500 ‘swag' dealers about London, counting women, boys, and girls. The average clear profits all round would, I think, be about fourteen shillings each a week. My missus and myself between us, we make clear over thirty shillings a week. It takes about thirty shillings to keep us, five shillings a week rent, and the rest for clothes, food, and fuel. Three or four years ago I have drawn as much as two pounds on a Saturday night. Out of that I had about twenty-six shillings profit. Now I have not been drawing more than five shillings a day, except on rare occasions. The profits are much lower at present. Ten shillings out of the sovereign is considered good now. The profit is not so great as it looks, when you think of how long we stand and how many are the folks we supply before we get a pound. It must take about fifty customers to make up a pound of money. Times are bad, and I have left the streets for a regular job. My wife minds the barrow. But bad as times be, it's wonderful how women will have ornaments. I have had them come with their youngsters without shoes or stockings, and spend money on ear-drops, or a fancy comb for the hair.”'..For the full story, and other photographs and commentaries, follow this link and click through to the PDF file at the bottom of the description.archives.lse.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&i... ( http://archives.lse.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=SR+1146 )
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.