Founded in 1937, Mass Observation’s aim was to record the ordinary lives of ordinary people in order to counteract the stereotypes of the same that held sway in the British media of the time. Armies of volunteers interviewed people about their lives and opinions.

Photographers such as Humphrey Spender were dispatched to make visual records of British communities. Though not in fact used at the time, Spender’s images are now recognised as an important part of the Mass Observation archive. This photograph is from the series Bolton Worktown, 1937.