Street Life in London
|Dimensions||Overall: 10 13/16 x 8 5/8 x 1 in. (27.5 x 21.9 x 2.5 cm)|
Your Mirror: Portraits from the ICP Collection
Photography has been mobilized in the service of specific social agendas since the beginning of the medium. Street Life in London was one of the earliest and most powerful examples of social documentary photography. Published originally as a monthly serial
from 1876 to 1877, it included photographs by John Thomson and essays exploring labor and poverty in the city by radical journalist Adolphe Smith, who conducted interviews with the subjects. The aim was “to bring before the public some account of the present condition of the London street folk, and to supply a series of faithful pictures of the people themselves.” The photographs and accompanying stories present individuals as archetypes (chimney sweeps, flower sellers, bootblacks, street dwellers) intended to
summarize their experiences. This body of work was a strong precedent for well-known projects by Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine.
Cornell Capa may have coined the term “Concerned Photography” but photographers have explored social issues since the beginning of the medium. One of the strongest publications in image and prose was Street Life in London published originally as a monthly serial from 1876 to 1877. The publication included photographs by John Thomson (1837-1921) and essays exploring labor and poverty in the city by Adolphe Smith (1846-1924).
The photographic prints were rendered using the Woodburytype, one of the finest and most permanent photographic media of the 19th and early 20th century. This body of work was a strong precendent for well known projects by Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine. The book does not concentrate soley on urban poverty but presents individuals as archetypes ranging from the chimney sweep, to women selling flowers to the boot black. This publication is an important addition to ICP’s holdings looking at the origins of social documentary photography through one of the finest print making processes – the Woodburytype.
Robert Capa and Cornell Capa Acquisitions Fund, 2013