Christina Broom was forty years old when she taught herself how to use a camera. Not an everyday occurrence in 1903. She got help from her teenage daughter Winifred to help in the darkroom based in the coal cellar in their Fulham home and she started making postcards – a growing industry at the time. Her husband Albert, who had badly injured himself in a cricket match so severely he had to give up his Ironmongery business, wrote the captions. She set up a stall in Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace from which she sold her postcards from 1904 until 1930. At her most popular she was printing 1000 pictures a night. This was a time when there were seven reliable postal deliveries a day.
What was different about Christina Broom, born Christina Livingston at the end of 1862 near Sloane Square, is she lugged her camera equipment around with her. Women photographers were not common but the few around became studio based. But jostling for space with men Christina Broom, at less than five feet tall, became the first female press photographer. “Historically she has been seen as an eccentric amateur, which has meant her work hasn’t seen the light of day in quite the way it should have done,” said Anna Sparham who curated an exhibition of Broom’s work at the Museum of London.
Lucy Davies in the Telegraph wrote of Broom:
Because newspapers were for the most part still unable to reproduce photographs, postcards were also used as a means of disseminating news, and Broom’s enterprise happened to coincide with a period of great upheaval in British history – she captured both the Suffragette movement and the First World War with an unusual, almost maternal intimacy. She also turned her lens on the more humdrum details of city life, producing many streetscapes and informal portraits in which her sitters appear wonderfully unguarded.
Would you like to support Flashbak?
Please consider making a donation to our site. We don't want to rely on ads to bring you the best of visual culture. You can also support us by signing up to our Mailing List. And you can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For great art and culture delivered to your door, visit our shop.