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Rare glimpse of Victorian London's working class captured by street photographer

John Thomson / Courtesy Dominic Winter Auctioneers

'Crawlers', one of a series of pictures of 19th century London by pioneering street photographer John Thomson.

Ben Cavanna / Courtesy Dominic Winter

The volume of Street Life in London containing 36 of John Thomson's photographs that will be sold at auction on Thursday.

A book of photographs depicting the grueling poverty lived by many residents of Victorian London is due to be auctioned on Thursday.

"In or around 1877, photography was mainly about beautiful landscapes or portraits of the wealthy, but these images [photographer John] Thomson deliberately set out to take were those of the Victorian underclass," John Trevers of auctioneers Dominic Winter told NBC News. "This was the first time those in abject poverty scratching out a living on the streets of London were photographed."

"This was a pioneering work of social documentation," he added.

Scottish photographer John Thomson, a pioneer of street photography, captured images of London's working class in the 1870s. The photos were originally published in a monthly magazine, Street Life in London, between 1876 and 1877. 

John Thomson / Courtesy Dominic Winter Auctioneers

'Wall workers'

The photos would likely have made a real impact when they came out, Trevers said.

"People wouldn't have been aware of the conditions in which London's underbelly suffered, and to see it in flesh and blood through Thomson's photos would have been quite a shock to the system," he said, adding that it isn't known how many copies of the magazine have survived.

The book is expected to fetch a price of between $6,000 and $9,000.

Update, 12.40 p.m. E.T., Nov. 7: The photographs were sold for £10,500, which is a little under $17,000.

John Thomson / Courtesy Dominic Winter Auctioneers

'Cheap fish St. Giles'

John Thomson / Courtesy Dominic Winter Auctioneers

'Street advertising'

John Thomson / Courtesy Dominic Winter Auctioneers

Left: 'Covent Garden labourers'
Right: 'Covent Garden flower women.'

John Thomson / Courtesy Dominic Winter Auctioneers

Left: 'Street doctor'
Right: 'The London boardmen'

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