Wednesday 12 May 2010

Little People

One of the things I love about old photographs (of which I don't possess any originals - just Victorian photo books of 'sights' of London, which were mass produced for tourists) are the little people just visible in the picture. Two of them grace the title of this blog - a couple caught crossing Westminster Bridge, as it happens - I love the way he's carrying the baskets for them both - and how you can tell they're working class from him doing just that, and the cut of his clothes.

At the other end of the spectrum, I just came across this trio near Green Park

Of course, they may not be a trio at all ... the man on the left is looking away, as they cross the road. But I love his jaunty steps, the brisk walk with the cane, as opposed to the man on the right, loosely holding his umbrella, seemingly just sauntering - his wife hitching up her skirts to avoid the mess on the road. The man with the cane has a self-important air about him - was he a leading politican, financier or just a military man with an upright bearing?

All that's left of him, of course, is this smudge on a page.


  1. It's curious how we react to photos. I am a keen photographer myself (see my blog) but I still find it curious. Photos strike us as "real" in a way that paintings and drawings do not and yet photos are, after all, just a form of mechanical painting. Even so, a blurred or low-resolution photographic image conveys the impression that we are seeing "What actually happened".

    I recently saw a photo of Queen Victoria as a young mother, accompanied by one of her daughters and, just for a moment, it struck me rigid: I was looking at a "real" person, not one of the familiar icons of an almost mythical historical figure.

    Just imagine: you and I too may be left as smudges on the page of some future blog.

  2. I fear the digital doodlings of the modern world will be as ephemeral as certain obscure Victorian print material, despite the efforts of some people to preserve it. That said, the British Library is having a go - see

  3. Yes, I know the archive. The funny thing is that I have yet to score a hit with it! Either its stock is still somewhat perfunctory or someone in authority has made a decision to leave aside anything that I might wish to retrieve!