Christina Broom: Photojournalist

I’ve long admired the work of Christina Broom, one of the UK’s earliest female press photographers. Broom came to photography in her forties, and the remarkable body of work she produced from 1903-1939 provides a vital social record of this era. Her photographs regularly appeared in publications including The Tatler, The Sphere, and The Illustrated London News, and were self-published as picture postcards during the height of this industry.

Christina Broom, photographed by her daughter and only assistant Winifred Broom, showing a stall with examples of her work at the Womens War Work Exhibition, London, May 1916. Collection: Museum of London

Christina Broom, photographed by her daughter and only assistant Winifred Broom, showing a stall with examples of her work at the Womens War Work Exhibition, London, May 1916. Collection: Museum of London

It has been especially wonderful to see Broom’s work reach a wider audience recently due to the Museum of London’s important acquisition of  around 2,500 of her images. The many documentary subjects Broom’s photojournalism covered included the suffrage movement and its most prominent members. To coincide with new National Portrait Gallery display Suffragettes: Deeds not Words, this week I produced a new slideshow presenting highlights from the work of Christina Broom in the Gallery’s collection. The slideshow can be viewed here, and I recommend keeping an eye on the Museum of London’s future plans for a retrospective of Broom’s work, currently scheduled for autumn 2015.

Community Portraits by Alicia Bruce

Last month I joined Featureshoot as a new staff writer. I’m very glad that in my first post I was able to highlight the work of photographer Alicia Bruce, who since 2010 has established a significant reputation building long-term collaborative photographic projects with local communities.

Bruce’s ongoing project Menie: a portrait of a North East coastal community in conflict has focused on an area of outstanding natural beauty and site of special scientific interest in Aberdeenshire, and the residents there who faced compulsory purchase orders on several of their homes as part of the construction of Trump International’s golf course and proposed housing development.

You can view a selection of works from this important project via my recent Featureshoot article, and explore Alicia’s work in-depth via her website.

Picture Post’s George Douglas

George Douglas photographed during the 1950s

George Douglas photographed during the 1950s

For a current exhibition project, I have been researching sittings by key Picture Post photographers taken during the 1950s, including by Bert Hardy and George Douglas. (I am very grateful to Sarah McDonald, Curator of the Hulton Archive, for her ongoing assistance and advice.)

While Bert Hardy is known to many, the work of George Douglas is arguably less remembered today, despite the significance of his remarkable output while a commissioned freelance photographer for Picture Post. The great diversity of his work ranged from picture essays on celebrity figures; such as Audrey Hepburn at the time of her breakthrough performance in Gigi (1951); to photojournalism, documenting topics such as Olive Walker, one of Europe’s few female chimney sweeps, and the work of a speech therapy clinic in Stockton-on-Tees.

Within the last few weeks I was delighted to visit Brighton photographer Nigel Swallow, who is researching the Douglas Archive and organizing its long term care, alongside the Archive’s owner photographer Roger Bamber. (Bamber inherited the archive following Douglas’s death, and the subsequent death of his widow Jill Renton).

Next month, a small display of thirty photographs from the vast Douglas archive, will be staged at his former home at 14 Sillwood Road, Brighton. Douglas had bought the house in 1964, and though he spent much of his life in California, returned to live here permanently from 2007 until his death. This display will be part of the Brighton Artists Open Houses Festival 2014, and further details can be found on the event page. This display marks the beginning of a new exciting journey by the Archive’s owners to fully unravel and research this collection of several thousand negatives from the 1940s-1960s. I look forward to following their news, and I hope that in time, their work will lead to a reappraisal of Douglas’s legacy.