British photographic history

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Edis (1876-1955) took up photography in 1900 when she was given her first camera by her sister. She opened her studio in Church Street Sheringham in 1905 and by 1910 her photographs were appearing in national newspapers. She was one of the first women to use the autochrome process, which was invented in France in 1907, and even patented her own autochrome viewer known as a diascope. In 1919 she was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum as the only official woman photographer to record the war work of the women’s services. Examples of her work are held by the Imperial War Museum, the National Media Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Cromer Museum with funding from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA)/Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) Purchase Grant Fund, The Art Fund and Friends of Cromer Museum were given the opportunity to purchase a collection of her rare photographs by a private owner, the late Cyril Nunn, who himself was a photographer in Sheringham and worked very closely with Olive Edis, back in late 2008 - as reported here.

A selection of these photographs taken by Edis between 1905 and 1955 are now on permanent display at Cromer Museum in Norfolk. They include stunning sepia images of Cromer and Sheringham fishermen and a rare series of autochromes, the first true colour photographs. Edis was famous in society for her portraiture and the collection also contains photographs of famous people including King George VI, David Lloyd George, Thomas Hardy and Cromer lifeboat hero Henry Blogg.


Photo: (Mary) Olive Edis (Mrs Galsworthy) by (Mary) Olive Edis (Mrs Galsworthy), or Katharine Legat (née Edis)

half-plate autochrome, 1900s. Copyight National Portrait Gallery, London.

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