John THOMSON, Recruiting sergeants at Westminster Enlarge 1 /1


Edinburgh, Scotland 1837 – England 1921

  • Asia 1862-72

Recruiting sergeants at Westminster 1877
Collection Title: plate from Street life in London
Place made: London, Greater London, England
Materials & Technique: photographs, woodburytype Support: paper
Place Published: Street Life in London', With permanent illustrations taken from Life, etc,'London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1877-78

Dimensions: image 11.0 h x 8.7 w cm support 27.1 h x 20.8 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2001
Accession No: NGA 2001.13

The Scottish photographer John Thomson returned to London in 1875 after more than a decade abroad. He began a series featuring the working class on the streets of the city, defined by their occupation. Street life in London, first published in monthly instalments between February 1877 and January 1878, is a pioneering photographically illustrated book on social conditions with text by journalist Adolphe Smith. The relatively long exposure times required means that the people in the images are posed: the photographs show Thomson’s skill in interacting with his sitters and the natural and relaxed results he was able to attain despite this. The aim of the book was to make the middle class aware of the harsher way of life experienced by the poor. This photobook is perhaps one of the most significant and far-reaching in the medium’s history.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra