INCREDIBLE colourised photos bring all aspects of Victorian London to life – including street sellers, child labourers, and busking musicians.
The expertly colourised snaps were taken in the 1870s, the same decade Charles Dickens died.
Recruiting Sergeants at Westminster in 1870. The year before British forces had nearly 8,000 men desert when the call to arms came, many of them will have been convinced to join by men like thisCredit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
The Independent Shoe-Black: A shoeshine boy does his best to earn a crust polishing the boots of a well healed London gentCredit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
The Temperance Sweep: John Day, a chimney sweep. Once a heavy drinker, war veteran and criminal, Day gave up alcohol and his business subsequently thrived. By this time there were around 2,000 chimney sweeps in London.Credit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
London can be seen bustling and full of character – including flower women selling their wares at Covent Garden; coppers on a recruitment drive at Westminster; and a shoeshine boy plying his trade.
All walks of Victorian life in the UK capital 150 years ago can be seen, giving a hint to what might have been the motivation for some of Dickens’ work.
The photos have been vividly brought to life by Grant Kemp, a graphic designer with over two decades of experience in his field.
The Crawlers: Adolphe Smith described these people as 'wrecks of humanity' he added: 'As a rule, they are old women reduced by vice and poverty to that degree of wretchedness which destroys even the energy to beg.'Credit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
Italian Street Musicians: Young Italians would often entertain crowds in London as busking paid better in England than back in ItalyCredit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
Furniture sales: A second hand furniture shop sells old chairs on the corner of Church Lane in HolbornCredit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
Flower Women: These women aim to earn a living by flogging plants to passersbyCredit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
He explained: “From 1873 to 1877, Scottish photographer John Thomson collaborated with journalist Adolphe Smith to document the lives of London’s urban poor.”
“Their project, Street Life in London, was released in monthly instalments and later as a single volume.
“Thomson and Smith combined un-posed, documentary images of street vendors, beggars and other workers with interviews, essays and reportage, which explored poverty as a sociological problem to be studied and alleviated.
“I have produced colourised versions of 11 photographs that appeared in Street Life in London.
“Hopefully these colourised images help to bring the London of the 1870's a little closer.”
Hookey Alf of Whitechapel: The man on the right was born into a good home and christened Ted Coally. But two workplace accidents left him epileptic and with one arm leaving him unable to workCredit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
Cheap Fish of St Giles: With fish laid out on an open table in the middle of a busy street, this fishmonger aims to sell as much of his produce as he can before the stench and muck becomes unbearableCredit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
Acclaimed photographer Thomson, who would go onto achieve a royal warrant for his work, and radical journalist Adolphe Smith, took on the fairly unheard-of task of introducing the middle and upper classes to the plight of the workers.
In their book, Smith and Thomson write: “We have sought to portray these harder phases of life, bringing to bear the precision of photography in illustration of our subjects.
“The unquestionable accuracy of this testimony will enable us to present true types of the London poor and shield us from the accusation of either underrating or exaggerating individual peculiarities of appearance.”
Although often dismissive of the conditions of the poor, Smith did attempt to lend a sympathetic ear to the people he portrayed.
According to the London School of Economics Street Life in London, one of the very first books to include “true to life” images is now regarded as a key work in the history of documentary photography.
Street Doctors: 80 years before the birth of the NHS, healthcare was an unaffordable dream for most Londoners. Faced with no other option, many of the penniless sick could only afford the services of quack doctors who sold their products on the streets.Credit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
Porters with boxes of plants at Covent Garden market: The market in the West End was famed throughout the country for its flowersCredit: Mediadrumimages/GrantKemp/JohnThomson
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