It was an extraordinary afternoon when Stanhoe and Barwick WI members were treated to the story of “Olive Edis, Photographer to Fishermen and Kings”, recounted by Alistair Murphy, Curator of Cromer Museum.
Born into a well connected family in London in 1876, Olive moved to Sheringham in 1900 – one of the “places to be seen” – with her mother and sisters. To earn a living she set up a studio and explored photography by taking studio portraits of her sisters and herself, and really charismatic photos of local fishermen. She used a large camera with glass plates for creating negatives, and used natural light and her skill of relaxing her sitters to create many black and white photos, a selection of coloured Autochromes, and hundreds of glass negatives.
“The face is the X-ray of the soul,” she said. And her skill and her London connections meant that famous people such as Thomas Hardy, Nancy Astor, the Pankhursts and Edward Prince of Wales became part of her legacy.
In 1919 Olive became the first woman to be appointed as an official War Artist, and she had permission to travel round the battlefields of Europe capturing images of the devastation of war, and photographing the women involved in war work.
It was a fascinating afternoon hearing about this relatively unknown but legendary lady who pioneered photography locally, and eventually worldwide.
And the memories lingered with us even after discussing five WI Resolutions later in the afternoon.
More about Olive Edis
Cromer Museum has two galleries dedicated to the photographs of Olive Edis. A touring exhibition of her war work, “Road to Ypres”, will be at the Millennium Library in Norwich from 10–31 January, and then at Sheringham Museum from 6 June; click here for more details.