Suffragette Christabel Pankhurst stares at an object out of shot, bonnet tied tightly under her chin, the eerie glow of her cardigan set against the bustle of the 1909 Women’s Exhibition.
Her pensive expression, captured by Christina Broom, is one of many in the Museum of London Docklands’ latest collection which pictorially prompts a flurry of questions.
These are picture postcards which tell a thousand stories. Their subjects range from members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) clutching cloth banners and placards; the opening of the electric tramway in Westminster in 1903; to boat races, royal visits and soldiers at Chelsea Barracks, close to Christina’s Fulham home.
Exhibition curator Anna Sparham said: “Christina was very much people-focussed and it’s that ability she had to command the attention from her subjects. They are quite warm pictures - all of them - without being overly feminine.”
Christina has since been heralded the UK’s first female press photographer. It’s an accolade made all the more impressive as she stumbled on the career by chance after husband, Albert, was injured playing cricket.
She first borrowed a plate camera in 1903, spotted a demand for hand-printed picture postcards and began a life accompanied by a tripod.
Her art then became a family affair. Albert penned captions onto the images while daughter Winnie took care of negatives and printing.
Anna added: “Christina picked up a camera as an experiment - it wasn’t a case of I am going to be a photographer. It was evolutionary progress.
“She took to it very quickly and she recognised the commercial potential - that’s maybe one of the reasons why her work hasn’t been as widely acknowledged.”
While the museum had already showcased 300 of Broom’s glass plate images of Suffragists, Suffragettes and the WSPU it has now been boosted with her photographs depicting royalty and the military.
These have been loaned from sources including the Royal Collections, National Portrait Gallery and The University of Texas.
Anna said: “It’s the centenary of the First World War and as we approach 2018, which is important with the Suffragettes as well, it’s lovely just to be able to tell the Broom story in full for the first time, bringing in some key loans to flesh it out.”
Soldiers and Suffragettes: The Photography of Christina Broom, Museum of London Docklands, 10am-6pm until November 1, free, go to museumoflondon.org.uk/docklands .