In 1950, LIFE magazine sent W. Eugene Smith to cover the British election between incumbent Labour Party Prime Minister Clement Attlee and resurgent former Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This striking image of three generations of Welsh miners, mired in hopelessness and poverty, symbolized the forgotten people whose lives Attlee’s policies sought to improve. His election in 1945 had ushered in broad social welfare programs across Great Britain. While Attlee narrowly defeated Churchill for a second time in 1950, his victory was short-lived. Deciding to call new elections a year later, Attlee lost to Churchill and the Conservatives in 1951. And the Welsh miners lost their champion. Describing the photograph, Smith later recounted: “I had my assistant call out to them. That’s why they had the quizzical faces. They turned. I think I made two quick exposures and that was it.”

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