Friday Eye Candy: An Intimate Look at London's 19th Century Street Life

In the decade before George Eastman developed film, photographer John Thomson and journalist Adolphe Smith published a series of influential magazines and books exploring London's street life. PetaPixel has collected some of the images.
John Thomson / Wikimedia Commons

Street doctors, flower women, public disinfectors, and, yes, chimney-sweeps could be found plying the streets of 19th century London. And for the Scotsman John Thomson, one of the "fathers" of street photography, they provided bountiful subject matter for his pioneering images. 

"Thomson, who lived from 1837 to 1921, began photographing the London streets — or, more specifically, the London poor who spent their time on those streets — after returning in 1872 from his travels photographing the Far East," explains DL Cade. With radical journalist Adolphe Smith, Thomson put together two books -- Street Life in London and Street Incidents -- that are considered "well-respected social commentary on the lives of the London poor." 

"To see more of Thomson’s work setting the stage for later street and documentary photographers, or if you’d like to browse through a complete PDF version of Street Life in London, had [sic] over to the London School of Economics Digital Library by clicking here."

Full Story: 19th Century London Street Photography by John Thomson


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