#1 The exotic down and outs of Victorian London captured on camera in the 1870s04-02-2012, 12:13 PM
In the frantic pace of modern life, it is often easy to forget what life was once like for those who built the world we now live in.
These fascinating black and white pictures taken by photographer John Thompson show the reality of existence in the 1800s when photography was in its infancy.
In 1876 he set out with writer Adolphe Smith and together the pair spoke to people and the shots were later published in magazine, Street Life in London.
The pictures, now stored at the Bishopsgate Institute, capture the lives of street beggars, chimney sweeps, street doctors and market sellers among many others.
Each picture caption is accompanied by the words written by Mr Smith and originally printed in the monthly magazine.
Described by Adolphe Smith as an 'old women reduced by vice and poverty to that degree of wretchedness which destroys even the energy to beg'
Mr Thompson, who was born in Edinburgh, spent his life capturing the lives of people and landscapes around the world.
His pictures received critical acclaim and Thompson published a number of books which included works from China, Cambodia, Thailand and Cypress. Today nearly 700 of his photographs are kept at the Wellcome Library in London.
One of his most captivating photographs is that of The Crawlers, pictured above, which was taken between 1876 and 1877 and published in his magazine Street Life in London.
Each month, three of Thompson's shots were printed in the book for a year, starting in February 1877 and each had the text written by Mr Smith.
Thompson aimed to help middle class Victorians gain an insight to what life was like for those living in poverty.
The woman featured in the picture was the widow of a tailor who she is sitting on a stone step wearing a headscarf, a long skirt and a striped shawl.
She holds a young child in her arms and is looking after it while its mother works at a nearby coffee shop.
In exchange for caring for the child, the old woman will get a cup of tea and a slice of bread.
The people pictured were always 'hard working, honest individuals, prevented by their station in life from further advancement'.
William Hampton of the London Nomades, a group of travellers who were staying on vacant land in Battersea: 'Why what do I want with education? Any chaps of my acquaintance that knows how to write and count proper ain't much to be trusted into the bargain'
04-02-2012, 02:07 PM
That is true poverty, not the perceived poverty in this country. To people like this, having a bed to sleep on was a true luxury not to mention having food to eat.The Obama Administration: Deny. Deflect. Blame.
04-02-2012, 02:29 PM
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A couple of years later, I was sitting in the cafe of my health club in San Francisco when I saw a women who appeared to be waiting for a taxi to take her to the airport. After too long, I saw her take a nip from a brown paper bag and suddenly realized that this was probably her first day on the street, that she was still getting away with her facade to some degree. I thought that was sad too.
For some reason, homeless women hit me harder emotionally than homeless men.
04-02-2012, 02:30 PM
Those are some high-quality photos for 1870. Again, I am thankful that they have never invented smellovision or smellphotography, because it had to have stunk badly in those London slums, back before toilets and other niceties of modern life became available to the masses.
Poverty in this country in this era doesn't compare. Most poor people, at least if they have children, have food, heat, and the basic necessities of life. That's what a social safety net provides. It keeps kids from starving and freezing to death.
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