What I learned as a project intern, by Rachel Kidd

As a Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies student at the University of East Anglia (UEA), the opportunity to spend my work-placement supporting the Olive Edis project was unmissable. I feel very fortunate have been a part of its development, culminating in the opening of the fantastic new displays at Cromer Museum.

One of my tasks has been conducting face-to-face questionnaires with visitors to gather their feedback about the new gallery. What was striking, and no doubt is a testament to Edis’s rich and varied portfolio, is how visitors have repeatedly expressed a meaningful and often personal engagement with the work. It was thought-provoking to see that different people responded to surprisingly varied aspects, including (to name but a few examples): the changing roles of women that these images reflect; the costumes and clothing used by her sitters and by Edis herself; what the collection can tell us about the life of the photographer and of the photographic techniques of the time; or, of course, how they capture the personality of the enigmatic fishermen.

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For me, this is an interesting reflection on one of the unique qualities of photography. By its nature it is an index of reality but the images offer us only a fragment of that reality and are necessarily an interpretation of it. Whilst the photographer frames her subject to tell a certain story or bestow the image with the desired aesthetic quality, the meaning of the photograph is not fixed. As recent debates will tell us, layers of interpretation are added throughout time, influenced by aspects such as the photograph’s mode of display, the context it is placed in, and the perspective of those who are viewing it.

Edis’s photographs have become an intrinsic part of North Norfolk’s cultural heritage and, linked to photography’s potential for varied interpretations, they have become valuable for a range of historical purposes.  Sheringham Museum for example, is currently hosting a fascinating display of European fishing ganseys. Here, the museum’s colourised Edis portrait of Sally Middleton served as an important reminder that ganseys were not only worn by fishermen and that there is evidence of patterns being adapted for different members of the family. Edis sold this portrait as a postcard and later exhibited it at the Festival of Britain but for Sheringham Museum, the detailed quality of the image and the addition of colour enabled volunteers to recreate the gansey-like knitting pattern of Sally’s waistcoat, adding an important local connection to the exhibition.

large_cr09773At the Girl Guide Archive Resource Centre in Coltishall, which looks after a large collection of historically important items relating to the history of Girl Guiding in Norfolk, Edis’s group portrait of Commissioners taken in 1919 was of particular interest. Not only does it serve as a useful tool in demonstrating style of uniform used in this era and help with the identification of items in the collection, but visitors to the centre have been asked to record their thoughts and feelings about the image, coming up with a wide range of questions and responses.

It’s been a fascinating experience to learn about Olive Edis, and I am excited to see the new perspectives that people will continue to bring to this wonderful collection.

On the road with ‘The Road to Ypres’

Yesterday the project team took to the road to deliver and install The Road to Ypres, our travelling exhibition of Olive Edis’ war photography, at the Museum of Farnham in Surrey. This is the second stop on the tour but the first venue to show the full exhibition, which is designed to be modular and flexible to suit a range of different sized venues. Edis had a temporary studio in Farnham, so we’re really excited to be able to show her work here.

As well as exploring the photographs Edis took as part of her war commission from the Imperial War Museum, the exhibition touches on her other work and offers visitors the chance to dress up and take a seat in The Studio for a photo. There is also a touchscreen interactive featuring extracts from Edis’ war journal, along with a further selection of images from Cromer Museum’s collection and the three short films made by Paston College students that I mentioned in a previous post.

This stop on the tour coincides with The Museum of Farnham’s exhibition of the work of local engineer and inventor John Henry Knight (1847-1917) , a prolific photographer who recorded many aspects of Edwardian life – a perfect pairing for The Road to Ypres!

Find out more about both exhibitions and related events at The Museum of Farnham here.

A Picture of Inspiration

Recently the Olive Edis project team attended a very special performance at Sheringham Little Theatre entitled “Olive Edis: A Picture of Inspiration”. The play, produced and performed by the theatre’s youth drama group, had its debut showing to a full house on Friday 19th May.

Sheringham Youth Theatre production of  Olive Edis - A Picture Of Inspiration. Pictures from the technical rehearsal at the Sheringham Little Theatre. Picture: James Bass Photography

Over the last few months, Sheringham Youth Theatre have been working with Youth Engagement Officer Tricia Hall and the project team to produce a short play about Olive Edis’ life and work, supported by our grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Since the first rehearsal back in February, the group have worked with a professional team – writer Steve Banks and director Bridget Robinson – to write and perform their own brilliant re-telling of Olive Edis’ fascinating story.Sheringham Youth Theatre production of  Olive Edis - A Picture Of Inspiration. Pictures from the technical rehearsal at the Sheringham Little Theatre. Picture: James Bass Photography

The show begins with a school presentation on Olive Edis from student Lauren, who is initially less than enthusiastic about the chosen topic – that is, until Olive herself turns up to tell the story in her own words! There were tears and laughter on Friday night as the cast took us seamlessly from breakdancing selfies (no, really!) to the horror of World War One, while Olive herself made sure the audience heard the real truth of the story – and discovered how new technology has made a camera as portable as a pocket watch. Along the way we met Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first woman to qualify as a doctor (one of her many ‘firsts’, as we learned!), Old Pegg, a local fisherman, and even the King of England himself. The students used projections of Olive Edis’ photographs from the Cromer Museum collection to set the scene and help tell the story – a touch of genius which even allowed Olive and the students to swap selfies!

The play was a delight from start to finish, and it was a real treat and privilege to see the work and enthusiasm that the whole group put into it. Our philosophy while working on the project has always been, “what would Olive Edis think of this?” – we’re absolutely sure that she would have thoroughly enjoyed the show!

A huge thank you from the whole project team to the incredibly talented young people at SheringhamYouth Theatre, Sheringham Little Theatre, Steve Banks, Bridget Robinson, and everyone involved with the show.

(Photos from the technical rehearsal by James Bass)

Fishermen to Kings: The Forgotten Photographs of Olive Edis

Over the last few months we’ve been working with local film company Eye Film on a documentary about Olive Edis for Mustard TV and BBC East. The programme follows world-renowned photographer Rankin as he discovers more about her life and work, and attempts to recreate Edis’ signature style using her original camera in a photoshoot at her old Sheringham studio with Lord of the Rings actor Bernard Hill. We saw it for the first time last night and we are delighted with the results! I’m so pleased that she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves.

The documentary aired on BBC East last night and is now available to watch online via BBC iPlayer (until 3rd May 2017):

Fishermen to Kings: The Forgotten Photographs of Olive Edis

The camera that Rankin uses in the documentary is the ‘Ashford New Patent’, a half-plate camera dating from the late 19th century. It’s one of several cameras that we hold in our collection which were originally owned by  Olive Edis. You can see it on display along with some of her other studio equipment here at Cromer Museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a beautiful, quality camera, and would have been an expensive purchase. Edis almost certainly acquired it second-hand (the patent is dated 1887, and the dealer’s name on the front plate dates it to pre-1894 – some years before she took up photography) and I imagine it saw a fair amount of use in its day. The fact that it is still in good working order today, around 125 years later,  is a real testament to the camera’s quality.

The patent in the camera’s name was granted for its unique folding design. The bellows and focusing screen can be collapsed to make the camera more portable (see some photos of it collapsed here). The advantage of this folding design is that the lens doesn’t need to be removed and the bellows and focusing screen are protected – the front panel ends up on the top, keeping everything covered.  (Thanks to RedBellows.co.uk for providing more information on this.)

The lens doesn’t have a shutter attached, but Edis would have almost certainly used one. Early lenses didn’t have built-in shutters like modern cameras – long exposure times on wet-plate processes meant that simply removing the lens cap and counting was enough. With the invention of gelatin dry plates, which Edis used, exposure times were much shorter and so a shutter capable of exposing the plate for fractions of a second became a necessity. Photographers could buy shutters and attach them to their existing lenses.

You’ll notice in the documentary that Rankin simply removes the lens cap and counts his exposure time. That’s because the speed of a commercially produced gelatin dry plate isn’t achievable with a home-made version, so the plates he used (made by early photography expert Kevin Lunham) required longer exposure times than Edis would have needed.

You’ll have to watch the documentary to find out whether the shoot was successful or not! I hope you enjoy it – let us know what you thought in the comments.

The Countess

As I was writing about our new camera display in my last post, I was reminded of an article I wrote in January for the EDP’s Object of the Month about the largest of Edis’ cameras that we have in our collection, ‘The Countess’. It seemed worth sharing again, as the camera is now on permanent display in Cromer. Forgive the unseasonal references to Christmas – this originally appeared in the paper just after New Year!

The Countess

‘The Countess’, c.1893, on display at Cromer Museum. The lens and shutter would have been attached to the front plate.

“What was the last thing you took a photo of? Family and friends gathered around the tree, or perhaps a post-Christmas walk on the beach? Whatever the subject, the chances are your photo was snapped on a smartphone, hastily produced from a pocket to capture a spontaneous moment. Within minutes, your photo may have been cropped, edited and shared with the world.

For Olive Edis, one of the leading professional photographers of the early 20th century, the process was rather more involved.

Sitting for a portrait in the 1900s would have been a time consuming affair. The photographer would need to pose their subject, arrange the lighting, adjust the aperture and focus manually, and load the large, cumbersome camera with a glass negative, all before exposing a single image. It’s no wonder that portraits from this time can look stiff and uncomfortable. Edis, however, had a unique talent for putting her sitters at ease to draw out their personality, which in combination with her obvious technical skill produced relaxed, natural portraits that captured a spark of the sitter’s character.

At the height of her career Edis photographed Prime Ministers and royalty, as well as the North Norfolk fishermen whose twinkling eyes still captivate audiences today. She was a pioneer of colour photography, a successful businesswoman, and the first British woman commissioned as an official war photographer. In the 1920s she visited Hong Kong, chased a bear in Canada, and mingled with celebrities – and she captured it all with her trusty plate camera.

This particular camera, ‘The Countess’, was made by the London & Paris Optic & Clock Company in around 1893. It came to Cromer Museum with a collection of around 2000 glass plate negatives, prints and autochromes originally left to Edis’ assistant Cyril Nunn after her death in 1955. It’s the largest collection of her work in the world, and also includes equipment and papers from her studio.

Instead of a roll of film, this camera was loaded with a single glass plate negative in a wooden holder to protect it from light. A new negative was loaded into the camera for each shot. We have one or two examples where Edis must have forgotten to change the plate, resulting in a surreal double exposure.

Edis preferred to use her plate camera into the 1950s when most photographers had switched to film, so it’s fitting that the last picture we have of her was taken by Cyril Nunn using Edis’ own camera in 1953. I often wonder what she would think of the advances in technology that allow us to snap a picture with no chemicals, plates, or preparation. I think she’d be eager to try it and explore the possibilities of digital. But perhaps, after all, she’d be drawn back to her faithful old plate camera.”

‘The Countess’ is on display in the permanent exhibition Fishermen and Kings: The Photography of Olive Edis at Cromer Museum.

Our new galleries are open!

Phew – it’s been an extremely busy few weeks since my last post, but I’m delighted to say that our new permanent displays of Olive Edis’ life and work are now open!

Our fantastic design and technical team have worked miracles in our little fisherman’s cottage, and completely transformed these two rooms. Despite having built new walls inside both rooms, somehow they have made them seem even bigger than before!

My personal favourite bit of our new displays is the big case full of Edis’ cameras, which you can see in the collage above (click for bigger versions). For scale, the photo backdrop to the case, showing Edis in the Canadian Rockies, is slightly larger than life-size, so the case is more than big enough to accommodate ‘The Countess’ camera mounted on its tripod, along with some of Edis’ other cameras and equipment. Whenever I go to a photography exhibition, particularly early photography, the one thing I’m often left wondering is how the photos were taken, what the process would have been, and what equipment would the photographer have needed. So when I learnt that Cromer Museum’s collection included not only the original glass negatives and prints, but the cameras that they were taken with, I knew I wanted those to be included in our new displays. I hope that now visitors will be able to get a sense of how Edis worked, and how much technical skill was required compared to the relative ease and speed of the digital age. When you see the size of ‘The Countess’, and realise that she carried something very similar around Europe along with a trunk of 200 glass plate negatives, plus all her developing chemicals and changing bags,it really does bring to life just how difficult an undertaking it would have been. Special thanks here to designer Katie Jeffs and conservator David Harvey, who designed and installed this wonderful display of equipment.

We also have a fantastic new touchscreen interactive designed by David Coles at Superia Commerce, which features photographs, video and audio. Visitors can listen to an actress reading extracts from Edis’ war diary (thank you to Kate Banks as the voice of Olive!), and watch three fantastic short films produced entirely by Film & Media students at Paston 6th Form College. You can watch the first film here:

Our next priority as a project team will be our travelling exhibition, The Road to Ypres: The War Photography of Olive Edis, which will be opening at the end of this month at the North Norfolk District Council Offices in Cromer. After that, a larger version will move onto Farnham Museum. For a full list of venues take a look at my last post.

We also have plenty of events coming up here at the museum – visit our Facebook page or pick up an events leaflet for more details.

If you’re new to the blog, don’t forget that throughout March last year I shared extracts from Olive’s war diary, posting each one on the day that they were written 98 years ago. Find out what she was up to on 8th March 1919 here.

Last but not least – happy International Women’s Day! Here’s to pioneering women of the past, present and future.

Hope to see you at the museum soon.

Next Steps

bw-print-of-olive-edis-wearing-souwester-hat-by-mary-olive-edisHas it really been almost four months since we declared Fishermen & Kings: The Photography of Olive Edis open at Norwich Castle? The time seems to have flown by, and our major retrospective closed last weekend. We have been absolutely delighted with how people have responded to discovering Edis and her work for the first time. We’re waiting to hear our final visitor numbers, but by early January we had already seen almost 50,000 visitors through the door – putting Edis up there with some of the Castle’s most popular exhibitions! We are so pleased that she is finally getting the recognition she deserves, and we hope people have been as inspired by her enthusiasm and talent as we have. Here’s some of my favourite feedback from the exhibition:

“I have a new favourite photographer. Thank you!”

“Superb exhibition. What a creative and positive force of inspiration for all.”

“What an inspiring woman. Can we see more?”

Well, for the visitors who asked for more – you are in luck! We are in the process of transforming two galleries at Cromer Museum, creating a new permanent display of Edis’ work. The collection was previously displayed in a small room on the ground floor of the fisherman’s cottage, but by March 2017 this will have been completely refurbished and the collection will have expanded into the adjacent room, more than doubling the amount of space permanently dedicated to Edis. Our amazing design and technical team have designed exciting new displays which will include digital screens, lightboxes, photographs blown up to the size of the wall, original prints, and touchscreen technology to allow visitors to explore more of the collection. It’s a hive of activity here at the museum – new cases to house Edis’ cameras and equipment are being built as I type!

Here’s what the two rooms looked like before we started work:

And here’s what they look like at the moment!

We’ll keep you posted as work progresses. The new galleries will open to the public on 1st March 2017, the first day of our summer season, and we have a full events programme coming up in spring and summer starting with a series of Edis-themed talks in Cromer Museum’s education room:

  • Thursday 2nd March 2017, 11:30am – The Many Roles of Women in the First World War with Frank Meeres, author of several local history books and archivist at Norfolk Record Office
  • Wednesday 15th March, 11:30am – The Photography of Olive Edis with Alistair Murphy, Curator of Cromer Museum
  • Thursday 30th March, 11:30am – From Pixel to Stitch with textile artist Lisa Little, who  has created a series of embroidered portraits from Edis photographs (see some examples here)

More info on how to book will be available soon.

We’re also working on our travelling exhibition of Edis’ war photographs, The Road to Ypres: The War Photography of Olive Edis, which will travel to the following venues in 2017 and 2018:

  • North Norfolk District Council Offices exhibition space (March 29th – May 23rd 2017)
  • Farnham Museum, Surrey (6th June – 26th August 2017)
  • King’s Lynn Town Hall (2nd Sep – 3rd Dec 2017)
  • The Belfry Centre for the Arts, Overstrand (9th Dec 2017 – 7th Jan 2018)
  • Norwich Millennium Library and The Forum (January – February 2018 final dates tbc)
  • Sheringham Museum (6th June – 23rd September 2018)

Don’t forget that in the meantime you can still buy your copy of our book, Fishermen & Kings: The Photography of Olive Edis from the gift shop at Norwich Castle, and keep up to date with the project here and via our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Great-Great Aunt Olive, by Rory Kirk-Duncan

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I discovered Olive Edis by accident.

It was during a visit to my grandparents´ house in Suffolk one summer that I came across Olive Edis´ portraits for the first time. I must have been ten years old.

A feeling of excitement came over me when I pulled open an old chest of drawers and realized that I had discovered a stack of photographs depicting what looked like important men and women. At the time, I remember thinking they looked like a cast of characters wearing costumes for a play. Who they were, I didn’t have a clue but I was intrigued.

Before that, I knew nothing about my grandmother Quita’s relationship to her aunt Olive.

My great-grandmother Katherine was in her own right a photographer who began to work alongside her sister Olive, only to stop her practise when she started to raise a family. My grandmother Quita had inherited a beautiful collection of photographs that for many years remained intact but unexhibited. Now that my grandmother is 96 years old, she has lived to see her aunt’s immense achievements acknowledged for the first time.

It’s not just Olive’s skill as a photographer that impresses me, it’s her bravery and determination – she was a pioneering female photographer at a time when women weren’t even able to vote. She was clearly a fearless explorer, wanting to capture more than just the sitters inside her studio. Becoming the first female war photographer on the western front is testament to this bravery – the images speak for themselves, depicting the war torn, churned up and cratered earth of Northern France.

She travelled to far-flung countries and colonies, from Canada to Hong Kong – Looking through photographs she had taken of Hong Kong in the 1920s personally struck a chord. Fifty years on, and hundreds of tower block buildings later, my father and mother would be immigrating to the same British colony to start a family, where I was born and brought up. Olive was there, capturing an unblemished Hong Kong harbour, a new treasure island and my future home. She instantly captures the vibrancy of the colony in the 1920s.

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Looking back as I do now, I think about how she must have felt walking down those same streets in Kowloon, taking the same tram up to The Peak with all the same enthusiasm and excitement I had as a child

Her passion for adventure but also her success as an entrepreneur, opening her own studios in Sheringham in Norfolk and Ladbroke Grove in West London is equally admirable.

Taking portraits of the young Princes and future Edward VIII and George VI would have no doubt gained considerable attention and strengthened her business in acquiring future commissions, but she knew that she had to be self-sufficient and she did this with fantastic aptitude.

Whilst walking through the exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum, I am constantly left thinking about Olive’s ability to capture the character of the person sat in front of her –  I can almost imagine the joke shared in between takes when I look at the photograph of ‘Lotion’ Tar Bishop and ‘Buck’ Craske, the local fisherman from Cromer, Norfolk – they echo the toothy smiles and jollity of a Frans Hals painting; or the bitter silence and sadness that holds still in the portrait of ‘Belcher’ Johnson. He is sat drifting in contemplation, in a Holbein-like pose with sadness glazed over his eyes.

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Whether her subjects were British royalty or local fisherman, it didn’t seem to matter to her – ultimately, she was interested in capturing the humanity of the sitter which she achieved over and above. In her own words from an interview in 1920, she said “The face is an index of the character, and the photograph, if you like to put it that way, should be the x-ray of the soul.”

Until recently, I believed that my family had no links to the arts whatsoever. Working for a gallery as I do now in London, I feel incredibly humbled and proud of this incredible talent in our family history – I am certain I owe a great deal to Olive and Katherine Edis for passing on a shared love of art, travel and maybe just looking a little closer.

The result of the current exhibition at the Norwich Castle Museum and the donation of her photographs to the Cromer collection is a fitting and just recognition of her extraordinary talent.

Rory Kirk-Duncan

We All Need Role Models, by Robyn Llewellyn

robyn-llwellyn-olive-edis-opening-speech-2Why has Olive Edis become one of my heroines?

I first heard the name Olive Edis when in 2008 we received an application from Cromer Museum to acquire a collection of her photographs. It was a fairly straightforward request – helping to secure heritage in the place where it belonged, telling stories about the past to the communities of today.

Olive Edis was the first female war photographer to work for the Imperial War Museum, travelling in Northern France and Belgium to document the women in the aftermath of WW1.   While it was great that the collection was safe, I kept thinking that there was scope for so much more, especially as we came up to the commemorations of the 100th Anniversary of the Great War.  More people needed to know her story.  So it was very exciting when we received the 2015 application for the current project.

Her photographs are compelling.  In her self-portraits she looks striking and confident and I particularly like the ones where she is smiling.

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Olive Edis – ‘Striking, confident…smiling’ 

There’s something special about the images of her sisters– ordinary family images I can relate to.  It’s great that part of the project is about discovering the history of the individual Fisherfolk.

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‘Lotion Tar’ Bishop – Norfolk fisherman 

We all need role models and Olive Edis has become one of mine.  She was an intrepid adventurer, an entrepreneur, a business woman, an artist – and she also managed to have a personal life.  It’s amazing to think about how she held it altogether.  The captivating portraits reflect someone who was able to put people at ease.

I believe Olive Edis would have agreed that it is important to discover and credit women who have made important contributions in the past.  I love the quote from her diary: ‘It made me think more and more of the wonderful capacity of women – given the opportunity to exercise it – which the war certainly had given them.’   Olive Edis celebrated women’s achievements both through her amazing photographs of some of the most influential women in the early 20th Century as well as her work in the aftermath of WW1.  We all can take inspiration by learning how women overcame the restrictions of their time and how ground-breaking women have laid the foundations for much of the equality we have today.

My favourite photo changes all the time.

Toul

A group of five senior nurses taking tea at the American Evacuating Hospital at Toul © IWM (Q 8075)

This project is a great illustration of what HLF funding is all about – heritage, people and communities.  Her photographs tell important stories of the past – Fisherfolk of North Norfolk, the impact of the First World War, the changing role of women.  The exhibition at Norwich Castle is beautiful, engaging, inspiring and fun.  I’m so excited that there’s still more to come and thanks to National Lottery players, her story is receiving the wider recognition it deserves.

If people want to find out more about Heritage Lottery grants, go to our website hlf.org.uk

Robyn Llwellyn is Head of Heritage Lottery Fund, East of England

The Brilliant Surface, by Nick Warr

nick-warrReading Alistair’s account of how scanning an ‘unprintable’ photograph by Olive Edis revealed a war smashed landscape decades after its hasty exposure is a reminder of how photography has changed since the introduction of computers. However, what this act of digital archaeology has also demonstrated is that photography is still fundamentally all about surfaces; thin layers of paper, glass, plastic, gelatin and metal – that either enable us to see an image or – in the case of Edis’ attempt to record the glistening mud pits of Ypres – keep it from us. For as much as Edis’ astonishing work can be defined by the character of those who posed for her it is also the product of a fascination with the surface of the image itself. In particular, how different materials can reflect and diffuse light and how a photograph’s presentation of these effects can elicit certain emotional responses in those looking at them.

The process of learning how to capture and reproduce these effects is clearly discernable in the experimental self-portraits that the Edis sisters took of themselves dressed in various elaborate outfits at the beginning of Olive’s career. I use the term experimental because these photographs are as much about the photographers experimenting with materials – lace, silk, satin, fur and the oilskin – and the effects they produce on the glass plate and print – as they are about recording their evolving identities as independent women. It is no coincidence that from very early on, Edis concentrates on perfecting the photography of these tactile fabrics as they perform an important function in her portraits – they work to vivify the flat surface of the photograph and capture our attention.

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Olive Edis in sou’wester

This effect is wonderfully apparent in the beautiful gem like portrait of Edis with fisherman’s sou’wester hat, taken in the early 1900s.  The contrast between the dark folds of her scarf and the glistening oilskin that frames the smooth oval of her face, gives this carefully lit image a peculiar sense of depth that draws you towards it. Getting closer to the print you become aware of its astonishing detail and tonal subtleties – which in turn prompts a haptic response and makes you want to touch its gleaming surface. This effect is no accident and Edis has the look on her face of somebody who has just worked out a very complicated magic trick and is now thinking of how best to use her newfound skill.

Scroll through Norfolk Museum’s online image archive of Edis’ work and you can start to get a sense of the dedication, practice and experimentation necessary to produce photographs as vivid and engaging as the portraits of ‘Lotion Tar’ Bishop, Canon Baldwin, Henrietta Barnett, Halilu and Hermione Hammond.

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Halilu, by Olive Edis

What connects these pictures, and what makes her Imperial War Museum work still so immediate and arresting is Edis’ ability to use texture to communicate a sense of a living presence, a felt as well as an observed world. The mink stole of a society lady, the fur of a family pet, the starched linen uniform of an army nurse, the shoveled piles of sugar on the floor of a Golden Syrup Factory, the polished wooden top of a dining table, the coarse woolen weave of a fisherman’s gansey, a playwright’s unruly eyebrows, a king’s Brylcreemed side parting  – all are depicted by Edis with the same beguiling luminosity that captures our attention and fosters our empathy by tempering the distance between us and the subject.

 

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Through changing times Edis continued to work with glass plate negatives and platinum prints – two techniques that fell by the wayside during the 1930s as cheaper and more flexible alternatives became available. However these techniques enabled Edis to produce images of such clarity and tonal range that only now, thanks to digital high definition screens, scanners and projectors, we can start to rediscover the genuine brilliance of her luminous photographs.

Dr Nick Warr is Curator of Photographic Collections, Dept. of Art History and World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia