Street Life in London: Context and Commentary

This acclaimed new book is an in-depth examination of the groundbreaking 1877-78 publication Street Life in London, by journalist Adolphe Smith and photographer John Thomson. Street Life in London aimed to reveal, through the innovative use of photography and essays, the conditions of a life of poverty in London.

This book is the first-ever in-depth analysis of the genesis, development and context of Smith and Thomson’s innovative publication.

Now regarded as a pioneering photo-text and a foundational work of socially conscious photography – “one of the most significant and far-reaching photobooks in the medium’s history” (The Photobook: A History) – Street Life in London did not achieve commercial success in its own time. In Street Life in London we see the start, but not the conclusion, of a conversation between text and image in the service of education, reportage and social justice. 

Dr Michael Pritchard, Director General, The Royal Photographic Society

Revisiting and Re-examining Street Life In London
John Thomson: Life and Writings
Adolphe Smith: Life and Writings
We Are Not The First On The Field
Making Street Life In London
True Types of the London Poor
Street Life In London as Photo-Text

Emily Kathryn Morgan is a Senior Lecturer in Art History at Iowa State University. She received her MA and PhD in Art History from the University of Arizona, with a concentration on the history of photography. Emily’s research interests include photography and social exploration, photographic imagery of conflict and war, and photographic modernism, among other topics.

Emily Kathryn Morgan’s analysis of Street Life in London is as sustained and ambitious as the primary source itself… Vividly evoking the culture of Victorian London, she establishes a detailed social and historical context for the publication's production and consumption, and brings many new facts and insights to bear. Her engaging, astute account not only reassesses the publication’s significance in photographic history, but also makes it available to numerous other fields of study: urban history, sociology, media studies, and more.
Britt Salvesen, Curator, Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography & the Department of Prints and Drawings, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

John Thomson was a pioneering documentary and ethno-photographer and this book is an important contribution to reappraising his work and importance.
Dr Michael Pritchard, Director-General, The Royal Photographic Society.

Morgan delves into the book itself analyzing both text and images for complex meanings, relationships, and reflections of the times. Of particular interest is her survey of past material about John Thomson, her recap of his life, and the events that shaped him prior to undertaking the photographs for Street Life. [She] also explores in depth the life of the writer of most of the text, Adolphe Smith, who has remained an unknown persona [and whose] socialist focus and intense interest in social reform made him a natural partner.
Stephen White, Author of John Thomson: A Window to the Orient.

Title: Street Life in London: Context and Commentary
Author: Emily Kathryn Morgan
Pages: 556
Colour illustrations: 75
Size: 203 x 127 mm
Date: 2014
Editions: £59 [paperback] | £99 [hardback]

ISBN: 978-1-910144-01-5 [paperback]
ISBN: 978-1-910144-02-2 [hardback]

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