These photographs are among the most famous and widely reproduced images of London – and more specifically Londoners – during the Blitz.
Images of senseless destruction rarely qualify as beautiful, but the background of destruction isn’t what makes me love these photographs. What makes me love them (aside from their obvious focus on books and reading), is the sense of calm, determination, persistence, purpose, quiet defiance, strength, and understated tenacity exhibited by all of the people in them. Even as their world literally crumbled around them and smoldered beneath their feet, they lived.
They didn’t just survive. They clung to their identity, their pride, and their sense of normalcy (or at least as much of it as they possibly could preserve) and self. And all that, especially against a background of abject, senseless destruction, really is beautiful.