Monday, 23 November 2015

About Women – photographs by Dorothy Bohm
Dewi lewis Publishing
Hdbck £30.00

Dorothy Bohm, came to Britain from Lithuania as a 15 year-old refugee from Nazi persecution. After studying photography in Manchester, then opening her own portrait studio, she went on to become one of Britain’s leading photographers and one of the founders and then associate director of the London Photographers’ Gallery.
This is a powerful selection of her photographs only of women, taken around the world – the earlier ones in black and white and then colour. She once described her work thus: The photograph fulfils my deep need to stop things from disappearing. It makes transience less painful and retains some of the special magic, which I have looked for and found. I have tried to create order out of chaos, to find stability in flux and beauty in the most unlikely places.’ What better statement of intent could there be for a true artist? And this selection demonstrates perfectly that outlook.
As an emigre I always wanted to belong, yet I felt I had to use my eyes as an outsider’, she wrote. In this collection we have photos from our own doorstep in London’s Soho and East End to Moscow in Soviet times, to the USA, Mexico, Spain and France. And the large format of the book does full justice to Bohm’s prints. It contains many memorable images of women carefully observed in their everyday lives, working, looking after children, shopping and, when they have the time, even relaxing. She is as adept using black and white or colour, in the latter loving the contrast of strong primary colours to frame the women she chooses to portray. Many of her black and white photos are reminiscent of photographers like Cartier Bresson, Georg Kertesz or Bill Brandt, but they are not imitations but always reflect Bohm’s own vision. A photography book to cherish and peruse at leisure for uplift, humour, aesthetic pleasure and hope.
            Amanda Hopkinson in her excellent introduction describes Bohm’s work succinctly: ‘she has consistently kept her eye on women, friendship and solitude; family and hard work; realism and fantasy; the effects of time and place on women’s lives are there for us all to see. In this book Dorothy reveals what we might not otherwise observe and, in sharing her vision, we look again’.  I couldn’t sum it up any better.

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