A Photograph from an album by Barbar Ker-Seymer 1
A Photograph from an album by Barbar Ker-Seymer

Because I originally trained as a photographer, and therefore have a personal interest in photography, the item I picked to represent the acquisitions from 1997 is a photography album from the Barbara Ker-Seymer archive. Ker-Seymer is little known these days outside art history books, however at the height of her career she had a society photography studio at 19 Kings Road, Chelsea, worked for ‘Tatler’ and ‘Harper’s Bazaar’, and worked on behalf of the Colman Prentice agency as a fashion photographer for Elizabeth Arden and Jaeger clothes. However, she became a photographer more by chance than design. Studying art at the Royal Academy she developed her photography skills by practicing on her friends, including Edward Burra, John Banting and even Man Ray.

A Photograph from an album by Barbar Ker-Seymer 2
A Photograph from an album by Barbar Ker-Seymer

The album I have chosen is number four of seven, and in particular Ker-Seymer’s photographs of a holiday, in August 1935, to the South of France and more specifically to the area around Cannes. I have picked these photographs because they give a rarely seen glimpse of the private life of the artist, and in this case, a care-free moment while on holiday. However, I have not only picked this item because of the intimate details it contains, but also because I find the composition of the photographs arresting. Like one of my favourite photographs of all time, ‘Wall Street’ by Paul Strand, these photos are taken in a Modernist photography style which (although they are obviously from a particular time and period) to my mind, makes them completely timeless. For me their ageless composition is the highlight of these photographs. In addition to the artistic merit of the photo I love how they also illustrate perfectly the styles and fashions of the thirties - a period which is synonymous with evening glamour and luxury! Would you consider photography to be an art form or is it a separate discipline in itself? TGA 974/5/4

Written by Allison 


john spry

I thought the exhibition was fascinating, what a contrast between the amazing colours in some of the works and the rather sombre tone of many of them. I would have liked a print of The Harvest but this was not on sale - any reason for this.

D. Goor

The way she plays with her camera and captures playfull, but strange moments is just amazing. Why she's so little known nowadays is a complete mystery to me.

john roberts

Can anyone tell me whether the Barbara Ker-seymer album contains any photographs of her artist friend, John Banting?