Christina Broom – Britain’s First Female Press Photographer

Day 235 of Colourisation Project – December 28

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

To have been a gainfully employed woman in the early 1900s was pushing the bounds of societal norms for women. So to have embarked on a career in a male dominated field of photography mid-life was something quite remarkable for a woman of the time. Today’s subject for colourisation is a story about such a woman.

Photographer: Winifred Broom – Christina Broom – 1910 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Born this day, 28th December in 1862, Christina Broom was Britain’s first female press photographer. Working under the name of Mrs Albert Broom, she took up photography at the age of 40, after a cricket accident left her husband in a wheelchair. Needing to become the breadwinner of the family, she bravely embarked on a photography business assisted by her daughter, Winifred who left school to support her mother at age 14.

Using a coal cellar as her darkroom, Broom was entirely self-taught.  She was also astute enough to cash in on the booming postcard market by charging soldiers tuppence for pictures of themselves to send to their families.  Broom sold postcards of photographs that she had taken from a stall she set up in the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace, which she successfully maintained from 1904 until 1930.  Broom quickly shot to fame for her 1903 photograph of the winning horse at the Epsom Derby. Newspapers were soon buying her images and her reputation took off.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s her work was featured in publications such as the Illustrated London News, The Tatler, The Sphere, and Country Life.

Her earliest images were topographical views of London. In 1904 she became official photographer to H.M. Household Brigade, a role she kept for 35 years until her death in 1939.

Broom developed into somewhat of an Edwardian documentarian, photographing important British events from military maneuvers to Royal pageantry, most printed as picture postcards. She took pictures of soldiers going off to fight on the Western Front during the First World War. Among the soldiers she photographed was Jack Kipling, son of Rudyard Kipling, who died at the Battle of Loos.

Between 1908 and the First World War, Broom produced some of her best work, capturing the demonstrations, marches and events of the suffragette movement. Her striking photographs were made into postcards for sale at Women’s Social and Political Union shops countrywide.

Other works include a detailed record of 30 years of the Cambridge and Oxford boat races, the first women police, Nurse Cavell’s funeral, Shackleton the explorer aboard the Nimrod, and official portraits of royal and titled dignitaries.

Once she managed to gain access to the Royal Family, she became a favourite of the Royals. She was one of only two people allowed to photograph Edward VII lying in state, and also photographed the coronation of George V.

Collections of Broom’s photographs are held at the Museum of London, the National Portrait Gallery, the Imperial War Museum, London and other notable museums throughout the United Kingdom. The Museum of London plans to put its collection in digitized form making her work accessible to a wider audience.

For over a century Christina Broom had remained largely an unsung hero. The Museum of London plans to correct his however with an exhibition of her outstanding work, titled, Soldiers and Suffragettes: the photography of Christina Broom scheduled to be staged in June 2015.

A collection of some of her photographs can be seen here in a recent Huffington Post UK article published on December 10, 2014.

Broom died on 5 June 1939 at the age of 77.

This entry was posted in Britain, Colorization, Colourisation, Photography, Women, Women Photographers and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s