Art & Photography
Edith Tudor-Hart (1908-1973)
Edith Tudor-Hart. Girl Staring into Bakery Window, London. ca. 1935. National Galleries of Scotland
Edith Tudor-Hart. Children, Whitechapel, London, ca.1931. National Galleries of Scotland
Edith Tudor-Hart. Family, Stepney, ca. 1932. National Galleries of Scotland
Originally from Vienna, Edith Tudor-Hart (nee Suschitzky) was one of the best documentary photographers in mid-20th century Britain.
Edith came from a non-religious Jewish family. Her parents were freethinkers and pacifists who taught their children socialist values. She studied photography at the Bauhaus and worked in Vienna as a Montessori teacher. Her brother also became a well-known photographer and filmmaker in Britain.
Following the rise of fascism in Austria in the 1930s, Jews and socialists faced persecution, and she left Vienna. Edith arrived in Britain in 1933.
Edith’s political beliefs and approach to photography were shaped by her direct experience of social inequality in working-class Vienna. In the 1920s she developed strong socialist views. She saw the camera as a political weapon
The recurring themes in her photography were child welfare, unemployment, and homelessness. She liked the detail that came with a medium format Rolleiflex
camera. Seeing the world from waist height, which is where you hold those cameras, meant she was able tocommunicate better with her subjects. Her face wasn’t hidden by the camera. She bridged the divide
between a documentary style and something more
She took photographs through windows to limit the sentimentality.
In London, in 1935 she shot a protest meeting against oppression and persecution in Germany. In the same year, she highlighted the plight of coal miners in South Wales where her husband, Alex was working as a GP. The outstanding quality of her work meant she was regularly commissioned by publications, such as The Listener, The Social Scene, and Design Today. Her subject matter ranged from images of Spanish civil war refugees to shining a light on the inhumane living conditions for families in London and South Wales.
Her interest after the 2nd World War shifted from wider social issues to, more specifically, the care and education of children. This period of her work involved images with alphabet exercises used to encourage speechless children to speak. These images would go on to be used in campaigns for children with disabilities.
In later life, Tudor-Hart continued to attract the attention of the authorities both at home and abroad. In fact, she came under increasing surveillance by the security services for her sympathies towards the Soviet Union, and suspicions that she had been a Soviet agent. This led to Tudor-Hart moving increasingly away from anything which could be construed as subverting the status quo. She branched into the safer realm of commercial projects, often in advertising. She ran an antique shop in Brighton before her death at the relatively young age of 64 in 1973.
Edith Tudor-Hart. Woman, South Wales, 1935. National Galleries of Scotland
Edith Tudor-Hart. Unemployed Workers' Demonstration, South Wales, 1935. National Galleries of Scotland
Edith Tudor-Hart.London Backyard, ca. 1936