The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

'The Raw Material As We Find It'

'The Raw Material As We Find It'

This small portrait of 'homeless' boys rescued by Thomas Barnardo was published in 1875 with the title 'The Raw Material As We Find It.' When the photograph was taken, the boys had already been found and rescued. They were subsequently dirtied up again and reposed for this publicity photo.

The man with the railway lamp is Barnardo's assistant and beadle Edward Fitzgerald. He was later fired for sexual impropriety with the mother of several children in the home.

The image was used as the cover illustration to Seth Koven's Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London (2004). Koven points out that 'Since this photograph was clearly taken during the daytime, the bull's-eye lantern in Fitzgerald's hand functions both as a reminder that he usually rescued boys at night and as a metaphor for Barnardo's rescue work, which brought the "light" of Christian teaching to the dark corners of the metropolis. The arched shape of the photograph and the rubble scattered at the boys' feet suggest a decayed ruin from the classical past, secreted in the back alleys at the heart of the British empire.'

Photographer unidentified, probably Thomas Barnes.


Code: 126426
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