A Cockney Camera by Gordon Winter
Published by Penguin - first published 1971 as 'Past Positive' 128pp
Although called A Cockney Camera, this marvellous book really covers the whole of London, featuring photos and commentary on a range of subjects in late Victorian / early 20 th Century life in the capital.
Split neatly into sections covering such topics as Domestic Life, Rural Survivals, The Day's Work, The Church, Shops and Markets, The Pub, various types of transport, and leisure activities what is particularly pleasing is the way that unlike many photographic collections, Wilson annotates each picture with lengthy notes explaining the location, the date and most importantly for family historians - he names as many of the people in the photos as he can!
Each set of photos is accompanied by a commentary on the social life that is being considered, and whilst it is clear that Wilson certainly knows his Social History, he writes in an informal and engable fashion - his first sentence provides a suitable example: 'To enjoy life in London in the ninteenth century, the first and most important step was to choose the right parents.' To illustrate his underlying theme of the severe differentials between the wealthy and the poor, Wilson admits to focussing on the extremes in his selection of shots, many of which he has sourced from private collections.
With photographs illustrating early trades, various locations and buildings, social life in action, and some smashing portraits, this book will help anyone with Victorian ancestors from the metropolis garner a real feel of what their everyday life would have been like, and bring to vivid life the sights they would have been familiar with.
Although like many books I will be reviewing, this book is long out of print, it is easily available as a second hand item online, and whilst checking for its availability this morning, I noticed there is a companion volume called 'A Country Camera 1844-1914' which I've just ordered for £3.95 inc p&p! Hopefully a review of that item will be ready in a week or so's time.