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Workers on the ‘Silent Highway’

Photographer: John Thomson (1837 - 1921) 

'Workers on the Silent Highway, 1876-77'

Photography was in general slow to engage with social questions. 

Thomson’s photographic study of the London poor was first published in serial form in 1877–8, under the title Street Life in London, accompanied by a descriptive text on each subject by the journalist Adolphe Smith.

Reissued in edited form in 1881 as Street Incidents, it represents one of the earliest attempts to provide a realistic photographic account of working-class life in the metropolis. 

John Thomson was a pioneering Scottish photographer, geographer and traveller. He was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East, documenting the people, landscapes and artifacts of eastern cultures. 

Upon returning home, his work among the street people of London cemented his reputation, 

Woodburytype

From John Thomson, Street Incidents (London, 1881)

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