The Museum of Docklands is located in West India Quay within a Grade One listed converted Georgian sugar warehouse and has a large number of fascinating permanent exhibits, however they also have a series of temporary exhibitions on particular themes.
On the 19th June, the museum presents a new exhibition which looks at the life and work of an early 20th century female photographer, Christina Broom. The exhibition is entitled Soldiers and Suffragettes: The Photography of Christina Broom and includes a wide range of her work, including Suffragette processions, First World War soldiers, official photographs of the Household Division and key London events, from the Lord Mayor’s Parade and royal coronations and funerals to historical pageants.
Although Broom is considered to be the UK’s first female press photographer, she only began her photographic career in 1903 at the age of 40. The injury of her husband in a cricket accident led Broom to turn to the photography trade as a source of financial income. What made Broom’s work stand out from her female photographer contemporaries was that she became a sort of roving reporter taking to the streets to photograph newsworthy events.
What was extraordinary about Broom’s work was that although she was driven by commercial concerns using the photographs to make postcards to sell at her stall at the gates of the Royal Mews in London, what she was actually producing was a unique visual record of the people, locations and events of the time. In her thirty-six year career she produced around 40,000 photographs .
Perhaps because of her commercial output, her photographic reputation has been ignored up to the present day, however this exhibition goes some way to rectify this oversight. In an age when camera’s were bulky and difficult to transport, Broom achieves a wonderfully high standard that was recognised even by the Royal Family.
A walk around the exhibition offer glimpses into the past from pageants to funerals, parades to protests. Perhaps the most poignant are the servicemen from the First World War, the fun and high jinks of the soldiers in the photographs is tempered by the fact that the viewer would understand many would not return from the front.
This intriguing and important free exhibition runs till November and is well worth a visit.