Following our visit to London’s Imperial War Museum in mid-May, where we were able to visit both the museum and the photography archive, our meeting on the 18th of May was focussed on choosing which of our female photographers we wanted our publication to revolve around, and which of their photos we found most suitable. We also aimed to begin designing a layout for the pages, using Olive Edis as our template.
We discussed our thoughts on Olive Edis, Florence Farmborough, Christina Broom, Mairi Chisholm, and Elsie Knocker, starting with Edis. One photo that seemed to arouse interest in the group was a photograph showing three different roles in wartime healthcare –patient, nurse, and doctor- which we found empowering because of the rarity of the sight of a female doctor at that time. We found that many of Edis’ compositions were inspired by the great 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, and certainly this one in particular which seemed to resemble something in-between ‘The Milkmaid’, ‘Christ in the House of Martha and Mary’ and ‘Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid’. A digitisation of the photo can be found on the IWM website by searching for ‘Q8059’.
Next on the list was Farmborough, whose self portraits we took a particular liking to. We agreed that it was a pleasant change to see the face of the lady we were researching; we were able to feel connected to her and identify with her to a greater extent (see Q107169, Q107166). Many of us wondered why she would have taken self portraits, and one New Focus member Megan said ‘’Well we take selfies!’’. Jen added that perhaps she did it to ‘’hold a memory’’ or ‘’show her pride’’!
We then turned to Chisholm and Knocker, as well as Broom. A mixture of melancholy, heavy, social, exciting, and captivating photographs were chosen, one of particular interest being Chisholm and Knocker’s ‘see-saw photo’, whereby a game of roulette against incoming bullets over the top would be played!
Because of our adoration of these female photographers and their work, we all found it difficult to choose just five photos for each woman; compromises and swaps were made, and Pippa reminded us that ‘’Sometimes you just have to lose your favourite picture’’. Over plentiful tea and biscuits we all came to unanimity and moved on to the designing of the page layout. We considered text contents, text layouts, essays, notes, pullouts, image sizes, positioning, quotes, opinions, stories, and colours and collated all of our ideas to hand over to designer Andy who would help us with the composition drafts.
With the photo content and composition ideas in flow, we are all excited to get cracking on with making this New Focus project the most empowering and inspirational one yet! We’re all incredibly grateful for the HLF’s help and cannot wait until the next meeting!
By Ione Collins
This project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Young Roots’ scheme