It is a remarkable picture---the wreckage of San Francisco's City Hall, destroyed in an earthquake in 1906. But the photographer was even more remarkable: he was Jack London, at the height of his fame as an author when he roamed the ruins of the city on assignment for Collier's magazine, making notes, interviewing people and taking photographs.
A book recently published by authors Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Sara S. Hodson, and Philip Adam from the University of Georgia Press highlights the little known photography work of Jack London, who is more famous for authoring books like The Call of the Wild and White Fang.
But before that, in 1903, he published The People of the Abyss, an extraordinary photojournalistic narrative of poverty in London’s East End.
Impersonating a runaway American sailor, London rented a small room, bought some used clothes, and walked the streets, photographing drunken women fighting, children dancing to a street organ, and men sleeping under the arches of bridges in the raw cold.
In the book London wrote: "The London Abyss is a vast shambles; no more dreary spectacle can be found. The color of life is gray and drab, everything is hopeless, unrelieved, and dirty. Bathtubs are a thing totally unknown; any attempts at cleanliness become howling farce. Strange, vagrant odors come drifting along the greasy wind; the Abyss exudes a stupefying atmosphere of torpor which wraps about the people and deadens them."
|From People of the Abyss.|