Street Life in London: The Shock of Recognition

Feb 15 | 0 comments

The publisher suspended publication of Street Life in London in January 1878 due to poor sales.

It would be several decades before audiences – first scholars and collectors of photography, then a broader public – began to see Street Life in London as a remarkable representation of Victorian street culture and a pioneering use of photography to depict the trials and tribulations of working-class life.

Appreciation for the publication has only continued to develop as it becomes available to new generations of readers. In their Preface, authors Adophe Smith and John Thomson wrote that they hoped to provide “a vivid account of the various means by which our unfortunate fellow-creatures endeavour to earn, beg, or steal their daily bread.”

The shock of recognition that today’s viewers experience on opening Street Life in London stands as a testament to the fact that Smith and Thomson succeeded, offering both precision and pathos in their extraordinary profiles of their fellow Londoners.

[From: Emily Morgan, Foreword to Street Life in London.]


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