Norwich - City of Stories

Want to hear about culture, comps & more?

Olive Edis: Britain's First Female War Photographer

7 September 2016

14. Photograph bw print of Olive Edis in car by Olive Edis

We love strong ladies who have made their mark on history in Norwich – there are quite a few, many of which are quite well known – Edith Cavell, Julian of Norwich, Dorothy Jewson, Amelia Opie, to name but a few…

However one name that many might not recognise - but really should - is Olive Edis. She was Britain’s first official female war photographer – her career spanned 50 years and made her one of the most important photographers of the first half of the 20th century.

Image: 14. Photograph, b/w print of Olive Edis in car, by Olive Edis
© Norfolk Museums Service (Cromer Museum)

EARLY DAYS

Born in London but raised in Sheringham from the age of nine, Edis photographed a huge range of people from every walk of life – from members of the Royal Family to local fishermen and even suffragettes!

13. Photograph glass plate negative of Katharine and Millie Emmeline Edis by Mary Olive Edis Oct 1907

Image: Photograph, glass plate negative of Katharine and Millie (Emmeline) Edis, by Olive Edis Oct 1907 (?)
© Norfolk Museums Service (Cromer Museum)    

 

WAR PHOTOGRAPHY

In 1918 she was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to photograph the war work that women were doing in Europe (despite many objecting to a woman being sent to photograph a war zone) and, in March 1919, embarked on a month long journey around France and Belgium recording the lives of women working on the front lines, as well as documenting the damage and impact of World War 1. She really did make history - she was the first British woman to be hired as an official war artist and just the 5th official photographer to head out to Europe to cover the Great War.

Not only that, but she was also a pioneer for new photographic methods and techniques, being an early user of the Lumière brothers’ autochrome technique and even designing some of her own equipment. She became one of the first women to be accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society!

11. LR Tank on the Menin Road by Olive Edis. Norfolk Museums Service

Image: 11. Tank on the Menin Road, by Olive Edis. Glass plate negative, 1919.
© Norfolk Museums Service (Cromer Museum)


SIGNATURE STYLE

Olive became successful enough to open studios in London, Cromer in Norfolk and Farnham in Surrey, and had various other commissions over her career including photos as part of a promotional campaign for the Canadian Pacific Railway, and photographs inside 10 Downing Street, too! She became well known for her signature style which created some truly striking portraits.

12. LR Motor Ambulance Convoy Commandant. by Olive Edis. Norfolk Museums Service

Image: 12. Motor Ambulance Convoy Commandant Miss Mellor at Etaples, by Olive Edis. Glass plate negative, 1919.
© Norfolk Museums Service (Cromer Museum)


FISHERMEN AND KINGS

Now, for the first time, Fishermen and Kings at Norwich Castle will celebrate her work and offer visitors a chance to see more than 190 rare photographs taken by Edis between the years of 1900 and 1955, with some truly atmospheric images of the battlefields of France and Flanders – in fact, the Norfolk Museum Service holds the largest collection of Edis’ work in the world!

Fishermen and Kings: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, 8 October 2016 – 22 January 2017. Usual Castle admission applies – adult £8.80, concession £7.90, child £7 (see website for further details) -  don’t forget you can ‘pop in’ an hour before closing for just £2 entry!


Find out more about Olive Edis here or take a look at this great article about her here.


COMING TO VISIT?

Abellio Greater Anglia have Advance fares from £9 one way between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Trains run every 30 minutes. Abellio also serves Colchester, Ipswich and Diss on the Norwich line. Direct trains also run from Cambridge.

East Midlands Trains runs services from Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham.

Flights into Norwich served from Edinburgh, Manchester, Exeter, Aberdeen, Jersey*, Guernsey* and Amsterdam.
*seasonal

 

To find out more and plan a trip to Norwich visit our website: www.visitnorwich.co.uk