Look Closer

Barbara Ker-Seymer and the Bright Young Things

Learn about photographer Barbara Ker-Seymer, and the radical approach to image-making she developed in the 1920s and 30s

This film explores the life and work of Barbara Ker-Seymer (1905–1993), with reflections from author Julie Kavanagh and academic Andrew Stephenson.

Ker-Seymer was a self-taught photographer who spent much of the interwar years developing a ‘true-to-life’ style of photojournalism. Based in London during this time, Ker-Seymer often photographed the lively collection of actors, dancers, writers and artists, known as the ‘Bright Young Things’. This group included Nancy Cunard, William Chappell, Frederick Ashton, Edward Burra, Evelyn Waugh, Gertrude Stein and Julia Strachey.

Since she used a portable Baby Box camera, Ker-Seymer was easily able to shoot her subjects in a variety of informal settings. As a result, Ker-Seymer produced a huge number of photographs, favouring candid shots over staged compositions. Therefore Ker-Seymer’s archive showcases her distinctive practice as well as the unique social circle captured within it.

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