Monday, 2 March 2009

Cloning Urchins

Over at Palimpsest, Paddyjoe points out another case of cover duplication--with a twist:





Unusually, not one of them uses the original photo unaltered (UPDATE: See below!). Here it is, via Getty Images and the Hulton Archive (hence the watermark), and it's a 1948 photograph by Bert Hardy. One boy is either replaced or removed, or else a new background has been dropped in.



It was originally published in the 'Picture Post', with this caption: "Gorbals Boys, 31st January 1948: Two young boys from the Gorbals area of Glasgow. The Gorbals tenements were built quickly and cheaply in the 1840s, providing housing for Glasgow's burgeoning population of industrial workers. Conditions were appalling; overcrowding was standard and sewage and water facilities inadequate. The tenements housed about 40,000 people with up to eight family members sharing a single room, 30 residents sharing a toilet and 40 sharing a tap. By the time this photograph was taken 850 tenements had been demolished since 1920."

There's a long but fascinating article on Bert Hardy here, including a theory that his Korean War photographs may have led to 'Picture Post''s downfall.

Thanks to John Self of Asylum for bringing the three covers to my attention.

UPDATE: I can't believe it didn't occur to me earlier that there were probably multiple shots in the series, so I went and checked, and indeed there were. Here's the other one, as used on the first two covers...

7 comments:

Vintage Reading said...

It's interesting the way they've manipulated the shading and backgrounds to suit each book - seems something almost dishonest about it. Actually, I think there is something more poignant about the smaller boy and yet he's not foregrounded on any of the covers. I've seen that Runes pebble cover as well on another book. Can't remember the title though.

JRSM said...

The other boy is younger and more crumpled-looking, which does make him seem more poignant and heart-tugging, you're right. And yet he's been completely edited out of 'The Changeling'!

deemikay said...

These are part of a whole iconic set of photos of the Gorbals (which I work 5 minutes away from). Most Scottish folk would recognise them and they just scream Gorbals.

Just to add to the social history - the tenements were replaced by towerblocks and other tenements. Some of which we (the housing association I work for) have been pulling down over the past couple of years to make way for new houses! Hopefully third time lucky...

James Bridle said...

Sorry to do this here, but I have a tip in the same vein for you. Am I being dumb, or are there no contact details on the site? How do I drop you and email?

John Self said...

Yes I thought it was two photos, as Urchin 1 is at a slightly different angle - leaning forward more - in one of the pics. Sterling detective work, Mr M.

paddyjoe said...

I had assumed the kids were from the Glasgow tenements but it is good to get a bit of background information to the photos. The Robin Jenkins book is well worth reading. Not so sure about the other two.

JRSM said...

Deemikay: Thanks for the background info--the other Gorbals photos in that set really are amazing: both evocative and depressing. And apparently the little boy in one of the other shots grew up to have a nightmare of a life.

James: Any tips gratefully accepted--try jrsmorrison at yahoo dot com dot au (and keep up the dirty books!)

John: Thank YOU for pointing me at them in the first place!

Paddyjoe I'm with you on Jenkins--he's a great and strangely neglected writer (although Canongate seem to be doing good work keeping a lot of his good stuff in print).