John Thomson

by Gus Stephens
(Northampton, UK)

The Temperance Sweep - ???to his newly acquired sobriety, monetary prosperity soon ensued and he is well known throughout the neighbourhood, where he advocates the cause of total abstinence..???

The Temperance Sweep - ???to his newly acquired sobriety, monetary prosperity soon ensued and he is well known throughout the neighbourhood, where he advocates the cause of total abstinence..???

John Thomson was an Englishman who also worked abroad, mostly in Vietnam but his ???Street Life in London??? series, published as a monthly magazine in 1876. The images come with a caption written by Adolphe Smith, each detailing the person???s job title and either some information on the job, a quote from the subject themselves or simply a summation of their lives - many of which involve their jobs becoming outdated and redundant, others merely tales of poverty. The captions feel Dickensian and offer explanation of how a job truly works ??? ???there are several devoted to this business street locksmith along the Whitechapel Rd, and each possesses a sufficient number of keys to open almost every lock in London??? ??? but the images bring the characters to life. Some images are sombre but others also reveal a great deal of humour, some more subtly than others ??? a chimney sweep who has recently become sober appears to have a halo formed from scratching on the wall behind him. Others are more explicitly humorous; an image of a group sat beside a Romany caravan is accompanied by the text: William Hampton of the London Nomades - ???Why what do I want with education? Any chaps of my acquaintance that knows how to write and count proper ain???t much to be trusted into the bargain???. These images by Thomson are a great example of both photojournalism and a photographer exploring ways in which he can use portraiture to tell a story through street photography.

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