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John THOMSON

Great Britain, Scotland 1837 – Great Britain, London 1921

photographer

  • Asia 1862-72

Street Life in London 1878 Description: containing 38 woodburytypes
Place made: London, Greater London, England
Creation Notes: negatives 1876, series first published in installments 1877-78
Materials & Technique: photographs, illustrated books, letterpress, woodburtype Place Published: London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington
Date Published: 1878

Dimensions: comp 11.0 h x 8.5 w cm book 27.2 h x 21.0 w x 2.6 d cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of Mr Paul Mallard, 2001.
Accession No: NGA 2001.253.1-37

The ‘crawlers’, the best-known image from Street life in London, is a truly astounding image of suffering. The crawlers of St Giles, the text tells us, are women who, through old age or want of proper food and rest, are reduced ‘to a lethargic condition which can scarcely be preferable to death itself’. This crawler is the widow of a tailor fallen on bad times, too destitute and frail even to beg. She looks after the baby of a friend (a fellow crawler who has managed to find work in a coffee shop) for eight hours a day for a cup of tea and a little bread.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra