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Remembering Dorothy Bohm Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

5 May 2023

Dorothy Bohm, who saw a lot in her lifetime carrying a camera all over the world, died at 98 in March in Northwest London. "But I don't show the ugliness of life," she said. "I try to show the good."

She was born Dorothea Israelit in 1924 to Tobias, a textile merchant, and Ethel (Meirovich) Israelit, a homemaker, in Koenigsberg, East Prussia.

In 1932, the family emigrated to Lithuania where Mr. Israelit had business interests. But in June 1939, as the Nazi party came to power in Germany and persecuted Jews, her father sent Dorothy to a boarding school in England.

As she left, her father gave her his Leica and said, "It might be useful to you."

She would not see her parents again for more than 20 years. But, yes, the camera proved useful.

She was attending boarding school in Ditchlin in the south of England when a relative suggested she take her photography seriously. She soon became an assistant to the studio photographer Germain Kanova.

'The photograph fulfills my deep need to stop things from disappearing.'

When Kanova was forced to close her studio during the Blitz in 1940, Bohm moved north to Manchester. She graduated from a photography program at the Manchester College of Technology and worked under the photographer Samuel Cooper for four years there.

In Manchester she met and married Louis Bohm, a Polish Jewish refugee. She opened Studio Alexander using the name Dorothy Alexander to support him while he finished his Ph.D. in chemistry.

Bohm traveled with a Rollieflex as she accompanied her husband on his trips for a petrochemical company to Israel, Mexico, Russia, Egypt, Portugal, Italy and Switzerland. They would live in Paris, New York City and San Francisco before settling in London’s Hampstead neighborhood.

Her work necessarily moved out of the studio and into the streets.

And in 1960 she was finally reunited with her parents and a younger sister after their release from Soviet labor camps.

In 1972 she became the associate director of the Photographers' Gallery, London's first gallery devoted solely to photography.

She became enamored of Polaroids in the early 1980s and switched to color film exclusively in 1984.

In 1998 she founded the Focus Gallery for Photography with Helena Kovac.

Her books include A World Observed 1940-2010: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm (2010) and About Women: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm (2015). She was the subject of two documentaries, one for the BBC titled Dorothy Bohm -- Photographer (1980) and Seeing Daylight: The Photography of Dorothy Bohm (2018).

Bohm was awarded an honorary fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in November 2009.

On her Web site she introduces herself:

I have spent my lifetime taking photographs. The photograph fulfills my deep need to stop things from disappearing. It makes transience less painful and retains some of the special magic, which I have looked for and found. I have tried to create order out of chaos, to find stability in flux and beauty in the most unlikely places.

Her husband died in 1994. She is survived by her daughters Monica Bohm-Duchen and Yvonne Nicholas, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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