Sussex in photographs - Pallant House Gallery exhibition

Dorothy Bohm, Goodwood Races, Sussex  Dorothy Bohm Archive
Dorothy Bohm, Goodwood Races, Sussex Dorothy Bohm Archive

This summer Chichester’s Pallant House Gallery focuses on the work of photographer Dorothy Bohm (b 1924), revealing her personal connections to the county of Sussex. Sussex Days: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm runs until September 2.

Spokeswoman Anna Zeuner said: “Highly regarded for her work, Bohm is particularly well-known for her photographs of London, Paris and New York. This exhibition presents a series of black-and-white photographs depicting Sussex life during the 1960s and 1970s – a body of work that has not previously been exhibited as a focused display.

“This group of images, all taken on a Rolleiflex, provide a candid and often humorous window on a bygone era of Sussex life whilst offering a resounding sense of familiarity: people devour ice-cream on Brighton seafront, sunbathe on Worthing beach, watch the polo at Cowdray and the motor-racing at Goodwood and picnic at a Horsham steam fair. Atmospheric landscapes, taken on and near the family’s working farm at Coneyhurst, Billingshurst, offer poetic but recognisable views of the South Downs.

“Bohm’s strong attachment to Sussex started in 1939 when she arrived in England from Nazi Europe aged 14. After a short stint at a school for Jewish children in Hove, she was sent to North End House School in Ditchling, where she learnt enough English to matriculate in just one year. Born in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) into an assimilated Jewish family in 1924, she lived in Lithuania from 1932 to 1939.

“In June of that year, as the threat of Nazism became acute, Bohm was sent to England; on boarding the train, her father gave her his Leica camera, telling her ‘This might come in useful some day.’ It was 20 years until she saw her parents and baby sister again after they survived Soviet labour camps in Siberia.

“A year later, having followed her brother to Manchester and enrolled to study photography at Manchester College of Technology, Bohm met her future husband, fellow émigré Louis Bohm. Their shared liberal views of married life enabled her career in photography to evolve. Early on, she opened her portrait studio, Studio Alexander in Market Street, Manchester, which supported the young couple while Louis finished his doctorate. From the 1950s onwards, their extensive travels abroad led to her abandoning studio portraiture altogether for the ‘street photography’ for which she has become celebrated.

“In 1966, the Bohm family bought a farm at Coneyhurst in Billingshurst which they owned for over 20 years. It was during this time that Bohm’s fondness for Sussex deepened. The photographs represent a very personal interpretation of a county in which she spent a great deal of time and yet never felt entirely at home in.” Entry to the exhibition is free.

For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2

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