Work of Britain's first female war photographer Olive Edis to go on show
PUBLISHED: 10:26 12 August 2015 | UPDATED: 11:58 12 August 2015
She photographed all members of society from north Norfolk fishermen and writers to revolutionary Suffragettes, Prime Ministers and royalty.
But despite having the accolade of becoming Britain’s first official female First World War photographer in 1919, Olive Edis from Sheringham remains a relatively unknown historical figure.
The Norfolk Museums Service hopes to boost the profile of the internationally-significant portrait photographer through an 18-month project financed by £81,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Ms Edis, who died in 1955 aged 79, had two studios in Sheringham, both in Church Street, and shared her time between the seaside resort and London between 1905 until her death.
She is buried in the town in the cemetery off Weybourne Road and the biggest collection of her work – 2,000 images – is at Cromer Museum, part of Norfolk Museums Service.
Olive Edis portraits
A picture of Verdun in France taken by Olive Edis in 1919.
A portrait of Prince Philip aged 15 taken by Olive Edis. Picture: OLIVE EDIS
A portrait of celebrated Cromer lifeboatman Henry Blogg by Olive Edis.
An Olive Edis photograph of writer John Galsworthy.
North Norfolk photographer Olive Edis
An Olive Edis photograph of novelist Thomas Hardy.
An Olive Edis picture of girls enjoying the pool at Banff Springs Hotel in 1920.
An Olive Edis image of desolation on the Menin Road in the aftermath of the First World War in 1919.
Sheringham photographer and artist Olive Edis. PIC COURTESY OF SHERINGHAM MUSEUM. 3 of 4 18 2 99.
Pix from Time and Tide book by Childs and Sampson. Portrait of Billy West by Olive Edis. edp sun 13.03.04
A self-portrait of Olive Edis sitting in a window. Ms Edis took the picture herself. For Richard Batson.
A portrait by Olive Edis of Norfolk fisherman "Belcher" Johnson.
An early colour photo of Sheringham fishermen by Olive Edis.
A black and white shot of the Grice fishermen family, from Sheringham, taken around the First World War by Olive Edis.
Alistair Murphy, Cromer Museum curator, said: “She took pictures of the rich and the ordinary. She had a great ability to bring out the humanity in people. She had a skill to communicate equally with Sheringham fishermen and King George VI, whom she managed to get a smile from, which is a rare talent.”
He added: “She moved in circles where there were strong women who wanted to change the world. She wasn’t the type of woman who let anyone stop her doing what she wanted to do.”
Mr Murphy said Ms Edis was a professional photographer of “international importance”.
Her talent was recognised by the Imperial War Museum, formerly the National War Museum, which commissioned her to take pictures of the First World War in Belgium and France in 1919.
Other subjects she photographed included Cromer lifeboatman Henry Blogg, 15-year-old Prince Philip, Prime Minister David Lloyd George, novelist Thomas Hardy and Sheringham fisherman Billy West.
Her work is also displayed in the Imperial War Museum, National Portrait Gallery, National Media Museum in Bradford and the Henry Ransom Humanities Research Centre in Austin, Texas.
“Norfolk should be proud of her,” Mr Murphy said. “There are people who are already fascinated by Ms Edis but we need to get to people who have not heard of her and get them as excited about her as we are.”
The HLF project starts in October and will include a touring exhibition across Norfolk, portrait photography sessions, drama workshops and the setting up of a permanent online archive of Ms Edis’ pictures.
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