News and Standard!

Some street portraits

When I was a student in London it was unheard of for any but the wealthiest to have their newspaper delivered. Rather, you simply bought it from the corner vendor on the way to work and the evening paper on the way home. Delivery actually cost more!

You could have your choice of any number of dailies across the political spectrum, from the stodgy and boring voice of the establishment, The Times, the typo-prone Guardian (its left leanings meant most of the journalists there could not spell, hence the paper’s moniker ‘The Grauniad’), the solidly socialist Daily Mirror (where the masses forever read that they had been robbed of something or another by the government of the day) and the paper beloved of the horse and hound set, The Daily Telegraph, though they bought it more for appearance, given their dedication to killing God’s innocent animals. The loony left got the Daily Worker, and the thinking man could be seen with The Economist, a weekly paper with a perfect grasp of history but zero ability to see tomorrow. That’s economics for you. City snobs read The Financial Times, ever so self aware that it was printed on pink paper – a color unconnected to its political leanings. Amazingly, all of these, and more, survive to this day.

One day it struck me that the street vendors from whom I bought the daily paper were far more interesting than the contents of anything they sold, so I took the tube to Charing Cross Road and proceeded to walk west across London to my home in Kensington, with the simple goal of snapping a few of these characters for fun …. and posterity.

It’s not like equipment choice was difficult, as I had nothing to choose from, so Leica M3, 35mm Summaron and one roll of TriX it was.

Now these street-aware characters are very sharp people, always ready with a joke or some political or sports snippet of news. Can you imagine a more people-intensive job than selling papers on the street? So capturing them unposed was a challenge, and it was a setting in which the ultimate street camera of the time, the rangefinder Leica, was just the right tool. And forget rangefinding. Set the lens at f/5.6 and 7 feet or so and bang away. No time for that fancy focusing stuff.

All of these were taken on one day – something you can see in the originals. September 24, 1974. And, yes, everytime I pop these onto the screen, I still find myself retouching dust. There is something to be said for digital imaging ….

The headline to this entry refers to the two evening papers of the day – The Evening News and The Evening Standard. The vendors’ cries – “News and Standard” – still ring in my ears.

Charing Cross Road

Oxford Street

Regent Street


South Kensington

Walking across London was about as much fun as you could have for no cost in those days. I suspect it’s no longer quite the same in a western Europe each of whose wonderful capital cities is now a target for some nutcase with twisted values. As for the headlines, as the French would say “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”.