Dorothy Bohm. London Street Markets

5 October - 17 December 2023

London’s street markets and especially the people who worked there were an important aspect of Bohm’s engagement with London. Having run a successful portrait studio in Manchester in the late 1940s and 1950s, it was only in the 60s and 70s, after she settled in London, that Bohm turned her lens on the city that remained her home until her death earlier this year. The markets she depicted include the old Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market, Smithfield, Billingsgate, Petticoat Lane, Portobello Road, Farringdon Road book market, as well as stalls in Camden Town and Hampstead.


The exhibition will be made up of familiar and unfamiliar works. As Bohm’s daughter, the art historian Monica Bohm-Duchen, writes:


“Familiar or otherwise, collectively they present a vivid picture of a bygone world, sometimes entertaining and extrovert, as often melancholy and introspective, but always humane, empathetic and engaging - a world of horse carts and cloth caps, hard work and meagre monetary rewards but also of unexpected grace, good-humoured camaraderie and other rewards less possible to quantify.”


The comfortable central European world in which Dorothy Bohm (née Israelit) grew up was a very different one to that of the London street markets she was to be so fascinated by over three decades later. Born in Königsberg, East Prussia, in 1924, her Jewish family left Germany and moved to Memel in Lithuania in 1932; in June 1939, just a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War, her parents made the wise but difficult decision to send her to the safety of England. By Dorothy’s own admission, and fully understandable given her early experience of profound displacement, photography’s unique ability to stop time in its tracks and preserve a moment for ever lies at the very heart of its appeal for her.

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