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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Olive Edis

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Born: Mary Olive Edis 
Other: Mary Olive Edis Galsworthy 
Dates:  1876 - 1955
Active:  UK / France / Canada
English studio photographer and autochromist. In 1918 she was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to photograph the work of British women in France & Flanders but didn't go until March 1919 because of because of opposition to sending a woman to a devastated war zone. She is now called "Britain's first female war photographer". Her journal entry for 11 March 1919 provides the background.
In passing Beaumaris we stopped to pay a call on O.C. Photographs, the head of the whole business in France and Flanders, a Col. Lee. I felt immensely interested to meet him. He at once told me that it was he who had stopped my permit going through for three months, firstly because of the great congestion at the time the Armistice was signed, then because of the fearful lack of cars. He did not think that we should be able to get about if we did come. He was a little inclined to challenge the need of my coming, and showed us volumes of 5 by 4 photos, many taken in the women’s camps, by the official photographers. However, I explained that the Imperial War Museum thought that a woman photographer, living among the girls in their camps, was likely to achieve more intimate pictures, more descriptive of their every day lives, than a man press photographer.
When I said that I understood that he had a good many men at work on the front he at once corrected me and said that though they were supposed to have six men belonging to the ministry of information, they never actually had more than four. It appeared that I was actually the fifth official photographer. I felt very pleased that a woman should get that chance. (
In 1920 she was asked to undertake a commission to make advertising photographs for the Canadian Pacific Railway and did the work during July to November. The plates were exhibited at the 1921 Toronto Fair, and at the Canadian Pacific Offices in London in 1922, but apart from a few 'seconds' there is no trace of the main body of work.
In 2015 an £81,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to create a digital online archive of her work hosted by the Norfolk Museums Service and bringing together her work from Cromer Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Media Museum and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre in Austin, Texas.

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Unidentified photographer
Olive Edis at Lake Louise 
1920 (ca)
Family history 
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