No Man’s Land Photographic Exhibition, Impressions Gallery, Bradford

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‘No Man’s Land’ is a touring exhibition of women’s photography and the First World War. The photographs include perspectives from women who were ambulance drivers, nurses, official photographers, as well as more contemporary artists. This exhibition is relevant to people from many walks of life, not just those with an interest in history. For nurses there is work displayed by Mairi Chisholm taken in Pervyse, Belgium, and Florence Farmborough taken on the Eastern Front in Ukraine. For photographers, there is the work of Olive Edis, the first female official photographer sent into a war zone. Also displayed are works by 3 contemporary artists, Dawn Cole, Chloe Dewe Mathews and former soldier Alison Baskerville.

Each piece of work is deeply thoughtful; for example the modern photographs of the landscape for the series ‘Shot at Dawn’. Over 1,000 soldiers were shot for desertion, which is very humbling. The photographs from the Ukraine are raw and nothing is left to the imagination. Similarly with the photographs from Mairi Chisholm, but also are displayed is some of her work showing off-duty. For example the photograph she took of Elsie Knocker with 2 soldiers on a see-saw.

There are also a number of artefacts including the suit case of photographs belonging to Clarice Spratling who was a VAD 1915-18. These were uncovered by her great-niece the artist Dawn Cole.

Accompanying the exhibition is a book ‘No Man’s Land: Young People Uncover Women’s Viewpoints on the First World War’. This is the outcome of an innovative project led by New Focus, a group of young people in Bradford aged 16-25. The project is run in conjunction with Impressions Gallery and heritage partners The Peace Museum, Bradford; University of Leeds; and The First World War Centenary Partnership led by IWM. It is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It is a thought provoking exhibition with photographs that draw you into the context in which they were taken. All taken as an observer, sending home the multitude of messages about the futility of war, but also how life goes on, as seen by the photograph of women with their new born babies as seen in the book. They are displayed as a time-line ending with photographs of women combatants by the contemporary artists. 

The tour started in Bradford and moves to Bristol Cathedral from 6th April to 1st July 2018. It then moves to the Turnpike in Leigh from 10th November 2018 to 12th January 2019. The final stop is Bishop Auckland Town Hall ( from February to April 2019.

It is highly recommended and especially the book, which for a small (or large!) donation is a little treasure trove of young peoples’ insightful thoughts accompanied by many of the photographs on display.

Carolyn Gibbon

Categories: Out & About