A World Observed 1940 - 2010: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm

Dorothy Bohm, Spain
  • Saturday 24 April 2010 - Monday 30 August 2010
  • Manchester Art Gallery
  • FREE
This is the first comprehensive retrospective to trace Dorothy Bohmís exceptional photographic career Ė a career that spans six decades and several continents.

From vintage portraits through jewel-like Polaroids to colourful images of contemporary life, our absorbing exhibition features over 200 original prints by the leading photographer.

Dorothy Bohm, Billingsgate Market, London 1960s  Dorothy Bohm,Northern France

Discover a wide array of aesthetically striking and deeply humane works that document people and landscapes in a rapidly changing world.

Plus, explore a recreation of Dorothy’s 1940s portrait studio and (re)discover the fading art of film processing in our replica dark room.

Can you help us?
As part of the preparation for this exhibition, we've been researching Dorothy’s time in Manchester. We’re hoping visitors might be able to help us identify some of the people from Manchester that Dorothy photographed.

Dorothy Bohm, Portrait of Erica, Manchester 1946  Dorothy Bohm, Portrait of a child, 1940s

Visit our Dorothy Bohm in Manchester blog to see examples of the early photographs we’ve already found and to find out more about her connections to the city. We’d love to hear from you if someone looks familiar. Please get in touch if you think might have a vintage Dorothy Bohm photograph at home too.

Dorothy Bohm's exceptional photographic career

Dorothy Bohm, Self Portrait at 18

Dorothy Bohm was born in Konigsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad) in 1924, she has lived in England since 1939. She studied photography at Manchester College of Technology (graduating in 1942) and went on to work at Samuel Cooper portraiture studio, before opening her own studio, Studio Alexander, in Market Street, Manchester in 1946.

In the late 1940s, having successfully established her portraiture studio, Dorothy discovered a love for open air photography. She regularly spent time in the artists' colony of Ascona in the Ticino, Switzerland where she developed her photographic techniques.

Dorothy Bohm, Ascona, Switzerland, 1948  Dorothy Bohm, Place du Tertre, Paris, 1950

By the 1950s she had completely abandoned studio portraiture for 'street photography'. She travelled widely with her husband Louis Bohm (a fellow émigré from Nazi Europe, whom she met when they were both students in Manchester). 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.

Dorothy Bohm, Sweden 1971  Dorothy Bohm, Portrait of a woman, South Africa, 1974

The first time Dorothy experimented with colour photography was in Mexico in 1956. But her first cohesive body of colour work didn’t happen until the early 1980s, when she explored the potential of Polaroid photography to memorable effect. A small section of the exhibition is devoted to this transitional period in her career.

Dorothy Bohm, Polaroid photograph, Hampstead, London 1980s

It was in 1984, on a visit to the Far East, that Dorothy used Kodak colour film for the first time and thereafter abandoned black and white entirely.

Dorothy Bohm, Venice Carnival, 1984  Dorothy Bohm, Cairo, Egypt, 1986

Since then, although the human figure in its natural setting is still the primary focus of her work, her approach has become more painterly and allusive, with an ever greater interest in spatial and other forms of ambiguity.

To this day, however, Dorothy Bohm continues to use photography in its purest, unmanipulated form.

Dorothy Bohm, Lake Lugano, 1994  Dorothy Bohm, Royal Exchange, Manchester, 2008

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, Venice Carnival, 1984

This major new exhibition has been curated by Dorothy Bohm's daughter Monica Bohm-Duchen, freelance writer, lecturer and exhibition organiser, together with consultant 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.

The show will tour to The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in 2011.

Exhibition closure

24-25 July
Due to essential maintenance the top floor of Manchester Art Gallery (including our current exhibition A World Observed 1940 - 2010: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm and the Gallery of Craft & Design) will be closed for the weekend of 24 and 25 July. We're sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

If you like this show, you might also like: 

Imperial War Museum North's current photography exhibition
Shaped by War: Photographs by Don McCullin is the largest ever UK exhibition about the life and work of Dorothy Bohm's contemporary, Don McCullin.

Cityco Manchester's 'Open City' photography day. Five renowned photographers will be taking keen snappers on a photography themed tour of Manchester on Sunday 23 May. 

Images: all © Dorothy Bohm Archive.
Billingsgate, London, 1960s
St.-Jean-de-Luz, France, 1986, Dorothy Bohm
Erica, Manchester, 1946, Dorothy Bohm
Child portrait, Studio Alexander, Manchester, 1940s, Dorothy Bohm
Dorothy Bohm at 18 years old, Manchester
Ascona, Switzerland, 1948, detail, Dorothy Bohm
Place du Tertre, Monmartre, Paris, detail, 1950, Dorothy Bohm
Sweden, 1971, detail, Dorothy Bohm
South Africa, 1974, Dorothy Bohm
Polaroid, Hampstead, London, early 1980s, Dorothy Bohm
Venice Carnival, 1984, detail, Dorothy Bohm
Cairo, 1986, Dorothy Bohm
Lake Lugano, Switzerland, 1994, detail, Dorothy Bohm
Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, 2008, Dorothy Bohm
Dorothy Bohm, Cheltenham, 22 June 2005


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