A World Observed 1940 – 2010: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm

Monday 1st March 2010

24 April – 30 August 2010, Manchester Art Gallery, Free entry

Manchester Art Gallery is delighted to be staging A World Observed 1940 - 2010, the first major retrospective of the London-based photographer Dorothy Bohm, who is widely acknowledged as one of the doyennes of British photography. Born in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad) in 1924, she has lived in England since 1939.

This comprehensive exhibition brings together over 200 photographic images, many of them seen in public for the first time, tracing Dorothy Bohm’s career which spans more than six decades and several continents. The absorbing show reveals a wide array of aesthetically striking yet deeply humane, visually sophisticated yet immediately accessible photographs that document a rapidly changing world in the second half of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

A World Observed 1940 – 2010 opens with a selection of Bohm’s work as a student at Manchester College of Technology (from which she graduated in 1942) and of the portraits she produced while working first at Samuel Cooper and then, from 1946, in her own Studio Alexander in Market Street, Manchester. These portraits will be displayed in a reconstruction of her studio, while a separate replica darkroom will demonstrate the now almost forgotten technique of black and white photographic processing.

The next section charts her discovery of open air photography when she began to spend time in the late 1940s and early 1950s in the artists’ colony of Ascona, in the Ticino, Switzerland. By the late 1950s she had completely abandoned studio portraiture for so-called ‘street photography’. With her husband Louis Bohm (a fellow émigré from Nazi Europe, whom she met when they were both students in Manchester) she travelled widely, and her work of this period provides fascinating insights into the changing face of post-war Europe, as well as the USA, the USSR and Israel.

The first time Bohm experimented with colour photography was in Mexico in 1956. The first cohesive body of colour work came, however, in the early 1980s, when she explored the potential of Polaroid photography to memorable effect. A small section of the exhibition will be devoted to this transitional period in her career. In 1984, on a visit to the Far East, Bohm used Kodak colour film for the first time, and thereafter abandoned black and white entirely. Since then, although the human figure in its natural setting is still the primary focus of her work and she continues to use photography in its purest, unmanipulated form, her approach has become more painterly and allusive, with an ever greater interest in spatial and other forms of ambiguity.

Exhibition displays also include some of the cameras that Bohm has used in the course of her long career, plus a selection of family photographs, books, past exhibition posters and examples of her correspondence with other photographers and artists.

In addition to her work as a photographic artist, Dorothy Bohm was intimately involved with the founding of The Photographers’ Gallery, London in 1971, and was its Associate Director for fifteen years. Her exhibition Dorothy Bohm: Colour Photography 1984 – 94, held at the gallery in 1994, was one of its best-attended exhibitions ever. In 2009, Bohm was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.

Dorothy Bohm has said about her work:
“The photograph fulfils my deep need to stop things from disappearing. It makes transience less painful and retains something 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.”

This major new exhibition has been curated by Dorothy Bohm’s daughter, Monica
Bohm-Duchen, a freelance writer, lecturer and exhibition organiser, together with consultant curator, Colin Ford, writer, broadcaster and founding head (until 1993) of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (now the National Media Museum) in Bradford.

A 176 page catalogue accompanies the show, featuring 100 full-page reproductions and essays by Monica Bohm-Duchen, Colin Ford and Ian Jeffrey. Published by Philip Wilson, it retails at £14.95.

The exhibition will tour to The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich in 2011.

– ENDS –

There will be an exclusive press view of the exhibition on Thursday 22 April, 12 – 4pm. To attend the viewing, for more information about the exhibition or to receive copies of images at high resolution, please contact: Jenny Davies, Communications Manager, Manchester Art Gallery. Tel: 0161 235 8864. Email: J.davies1@manchester.gov.uk

Date issued: 24 February 2010

Notes to Editors:
Manchester Art Gallery
Mosley Street
Manchester, M2 3JL

0161 235 8888

Open: Tuesday – Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays, 10am – 5pm
Closed: Mondays (except Bank Holidays) and Good Friday

An events programme accompanies A World Observed 1940 –2010 including:

Artist’s talk
Sunday 25 April, 2 – 3pm
Dorothy Bohm discusses her life and work with her daughter and guest curator Monica Bohm-Duchen. Free. Please book. Tel: 0161 235 8888. Email: magevents@manchester.gov.uk

Making conversation
Tuesdays 11, 18 and 25 May, 1 – 4pm
Artist Naomi Kendrick leads an exploratory tour of the exhibition followed by three practical workshops. Includes description of the exhibition to support visually impaired people. Free. Please book. Tel: 0161 235 8888. Email: magevents@manchester.gov.uk

Photography art weekend
Sat 5 and Sun 6 June, 11am – 4pm

Inspired by Dorothy Bohm’s work, we’ll be taking a slower, more considered approach to digital photography in this practical workshop for all abilities. £35 (£25 concessions). Please book. Tel: 0161 235 8888. Email: magevents@manchester.gov.uk

Also in Manchester:
Shaped by War: Photographs by Don McCullin
6 February - 13 June 2010
Imperial War Museum North

The largest ever UK exhibition about the life and work of world-renowned photographer Don McCullin to mark his 75th year. Many items are on display for the very first time.
For more information please contact:
Alex Knight, aknight@iwm.org.uk , Tel 0161 836 4040

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