Photographic exhibition revisits Booth’s survey of a district

A new exhibition takes a contemporary look through the lens of a camera at the people and places in a London district first described by social reformer Charles Booth more than a century ago.

People in street.

Warren Street more than a century after Charles Booth surveyed it. Photo: John Angerson.

John Angerson, an award-winning photographer and artist in residence at the Old Diorama Art Centre in Drummond Street, traced the footsteps of Booth and his researchers from the archive material held at the London School of Economics.

“With this information, I set out to document those places as they are today, working in a similar way to Charles Booth, to simply record a place,” says Angerson who tramped the streets around the art centre capturing the district as it is 120 years after Booth first explored it.

Booth worked with the help of the 1891 census and a team of researchers who accompanied police officers as they patrolled their beat. The final survey was published between 1889 and 1903 as the Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London.

More commonly known as the Poverty Maps the finished work was a series of drawings that colour-coded the streets of London according to the homes and their occupants’ social class.

However, Booth only included information that could be quantified, and which would not identify or embarrass any individual who was interviewed at the time. Far richer information about the character of the people — and some of Booth’s own prejudices — can be found by reading the original survey notebooks in the archive.

108.71 Acres runs from 30 October to 10 November 2019. Open Weekdays 9am-10pm & 9am-6pm at Weekends. Old Diorama Art centre, 201 Drummond Street, Regent’s Place, London, NW1 3FE.

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