Women at war

Country Life Every Week - - Exhibition -

Dur­ing the First World War, Edis was com­mis­sioned by the Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum to pho­to­graph the work of women in the war zone. She was Bri­tain’s first of­fi­cial fe­male war pho­tog­ra­pher. Edis, for one, thought her gen­der gave her an ad­van­tage. ‘A wo­man pho­tog­ra­pher,’ she wrote, ‘liv­ing among the girls in their camps, was likely to achieve more in­ti­mate pic­tures, more de­scrip­tive of their ev­ery­day life, than a man press pho­tog­ra­pher.’

These ‘girls’ in­cluded nurses and am­bu­lance driv­ers, the lat­ter stand­ing im­pres­sively im­pas­sive be­side their mo­tors. Edis was keenly aware of the lib­er­at­ing ef­fect the war was hav­ing on women and of its over­all de­struc­tive ef­fect; she shot the wreck­age of a burnt-out tank on the Menin Road in March 1919 (above) and, most ef­fec­tive of all, a des­o­late land­scape of rub­ble and tree trunks. ‘One won­dered how France could ever pull her­self to­gether again.’

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