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Exhibition shows first world war as seen through the lens of female nurses

A new exhibition of rarely seen photographs featuring – and taken by – nurses serving on the front line of the first world war has opened.

A new exhibition of rarely seen photographs featuring – and taken by – nurses serving on the front line of the first world war has opened in West Yorkshire.


First world war nurse Mairi Chisholm’s shot of her colleague Elsie Knocker
Picture: National Library of Scotland 

No Man’s Land at the Impressions Gallery in Bradford offers female perspectives on the war, and has been created to mark its centenary.

Works by nurses Mairi Chisholm and Florence Farmborough, appear alongside those by Olive Edis, the UK’s first female official war photographer.

Snapshot cameras

There is also a contemporary selection featuring a trio of current – and former – serving soldiers.

Motorcyclist-turned-ambulance driver Ms Chisholm set up a first aid post on the western front with her friend Elsie Knocker.

Using snapshot cameras, they recorded their intense life under fire at Pervyse in Belgium, just yardns from the trenches.

On the eastern front, amateur photographer Ms Farmborough documented her experiences with the Russian Red Cross on the border of Galicia (present day Ukraine and Poland).

Explicit images

At a time when the British press avoided explicit images, Ms Farmborough depicted the horrific consequences of war, including corpses lying in battlefields.

Her images of Cossack soldiers, makeshift field tents, and Christmas in an old dug-out were taken before she fled the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

Exhibition curator Pippa Oldfield, who is head of programme at Impressions Gallery, said: ‘Most people think of war photography as images of male soldiers, made by photojournalists in the combat zone.

Different viewpoints

‘However, the work in No Man’s Land shows many other ways to photograph war, offering different viewpoints by women who have historically been excluded.

‘I hope visitors will be moved and surprised by what they see.’

No Man’s Land runs at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, until 30 December.


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