More from The East End of London:
About 1850, the latest craze of the streets was photography, and Whitechapel and Commercial Road were full of shops where this as yet very imperfect art was available to the people, at a shilling or sixpence the portrait. A photographer who had practised in the Whitechapel Road told Mayhew his trade secrets. He explained with relish the many frauds that he and ‘Jim’, his partner, had invented…
When a photograph failed, or the light was too poor to take one, the customer would be sent away with a picture of somebody else; the only case of dissatisfaction at this treatment was an old woman who refused to believe that a bearded masculine face was hers — ‘it was a little too strong’.
‘The fact is,’ said the photographer, after telling many stories of his infinitely gullible public, ‘people don’t know their own faces. Half of ’em have never looked in a glass half a dozen times in their life, and directly they see a pair of eyes and a nose, they fancy they are their own.’