Christina Broom is probably not a name you’re familiar with but the woman was a pioneer. She was the UK’s first female press photographer. Although there were other female photographers at the time, they were mainly confined to the studio whereas Christina was the first to take to the streets to photograph newsworthy events.
Christina’s career was borne out of necessity, starting in 1903 when she was 40 years of age. Her husband, Albert, was injured in a cricket accident and so the responsibility to provide passed to her. From her base in Fulham she was able to cover much activity on the London streets in the early part of the 20th century 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.
Her work is now being celebrated in a new exhibition at Museum of London, Docklands, where some of her photographs will be joined by original glass plate negatives, and objects which build a fuller picture of Christina’s character and her career, including personal possessions, a suffragette banner, letters, press passes, notebooks and a cuttings album.
Christina remained an active photographer for over 36 years, until her death in 1939. In her time, she made approximately 40,000 photographs largely selling these as postcards from her stall at the gates of the Royal Mews in London, an enterprise her daughter Winifred Broom was also part of, helping to print the photographs from the age of 14.
Most of the photographs on display in the show are from the Museum of London’s collection of her work, including a recent acquisition of 2,500 photographs, supplemented with a few key loans from Royal Collections, The University of Texas, Austin and the National Portrait Gallery.
The photos are a beautiful testament to a period of time, of civil dissent and war, of a society on the brink of profound change. And there’s a real beauty in Christina’s photographs. As Anna Sparham, Curator of Photographs at the Museum of London, said, Christina “successfully positioned her camera at the heart of momentous occasions both of London and national importance, capturing the beauty of a Suffragette spectacle alongside the poignancy of a soldier departing for War.”
The display is a wonderful testament to a talented and entrepreneurial woman.
Museum of London Docklands, London
Friday 19 June – Sunday 1 November 2015
- Suffragettes taking part in a pageant organised by The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies 13 June 1908 (c) Museum of London
- 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards look to the camera during their Christmas meal at Chelsea Barracks 1914 (c) Museum of London
- Portrait of Christina Broom taken by her daughter Winifred Broom prior to the funeral of King Edward VII May 1910 (c) Museum of London
- Christabel Pankhurst co-founder of the WSPU photographed inside The Women’s Exhibition (c) Museum of London