Olive Edis, Self Portrait

Mary Olive Edis, known as Olive, was born on 3rd September 1876. She was primarily a portrait photographer but was also Britain’s first female war photographer.

Olive Edis began taking photographs in 1900. She had received a camera as a gift and discovered a talent for photography. In 1905 Olive her sister Katherine opened a photography studio in Sheringham on the north Norfolk coast, UK.

Katherine left the business when she got married, but Olive continued. Her subjects were varied. Edis photographed ‘normal’ people, such as the fishermen who lived by the coast, but also nobility and royalty, including King George VI.

Edis worked with colour photography from the 1910s. She used the ‘autochrome luminere’ process, and patented her own ‘diascope’ autochrome viewer, as the images are best seen with a backlight.

In 1919 the Women’s Work Committee at the Imperial War Museum commissioned Edis to go to France and Belgium and photograph women at work in the war effort. She was the first female war artist, and only the 5th photographer to be sent to document World War One.

In 1920 Edis took some of the first colour photographs of Canada as part of a promotional campaign for the Canadian Pacific Railway. She also documented the inside of the Prime Minister’s residence at Number 10 Downing Street.

Edis died on 28th December 1955. By this time, she had opened photography studios all over the south of England.

-Jocelyn Anderson-Wood
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.


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