When most people hear the name Jack London, they think of one of the most widely read American writers who produced 50 books including Call of the Wild and The Sea Wolf; some may also know him as an adventurer or social activist. But most don’t realize that Jack London was a prolific photographer producing nearly 12,000 photographs during his lifetime, ranging from the poignant images of the ragged homeless living in London’s East End; images of the Russo-Japanese War while he was on assignment for the Hearst Syndicate; sensitive images of the South Seas islanders during his voyage aboard the Snark to the 1906 San Francisco earth quake devastation.
In his photography, London showed his powers of perception and revealed his compassion, respect and love for humanity. Most of his photographs remained unpublished until 2010 when authors Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Sara S. Hodson and Philip Adam published Jack London Photographer with 200 images.
London lived during the first true mass-media era, when the use of photographic images ushered in a new way of covering the news. With his discerning eye, London recorded historical moments through the faces and bodies of the people who lived them, creating memorable portraits of individuals whose cultural differences pale beside their common humanity.
White Chapel on a bank Holiday, London, 1902.
Men spending the night outdoors on the Thames embankment, London, 1902.
Homeless women sleeping in Spitalfields Garden, London, 1902.
Salvation Army barracks in London during Sunday morning rush – men who had been given tickets during the night queuing for free breakfast, 1902.
Jack London detained by Japanese officials in Korea, 1904.
Assessing the damage in Santa Rosa, California, 1906.
The devastation caused by the San Francisco earthquake on Kearny Street, 1906.
Buildings damaged by the San Francisco earthquake, 1906.
The ruins after the San Francisco earthquake, 1906.
Inhabitants of Nuku Hiva, largest of the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, 1907.
A small family of Korean refugees fleeing the Japanese Army. Korea.,1904.
Fellow passengers to Japan, on the S.S. Siberia en route to Yokohama, 1904.
Antung Harbor, Manchuria, 1904, where London reported on the Russo-Japanese war.
The American adventurer and film director Martin Johnson, one of the members of the Snark crew, poses with a native of the Solomon Islands. Guadalcanal, 1908.
The pali (cliff) trail on the island of Molokai, Hawaii, 1907.
“Fire!” Korea, 1904.
Jack London photographing the skeleton of the Snark, in which he sailed across the south Pacific, in San Francisco Bay, 1906.
Jack London on a water wagon at the ranch.
Jack and Charmian London. Inscribed: “Mr. and Mrs. Jack London, Glen Ellen, California”.