Born into an army family in India in 1907, Helen Muspratt was a lifelong communist, a member of the Cambridge intellectual milieu of the 1930s, and a working mother at a time when such a role was unusual for women of her class. She was also a pioneering photographer, creating an extraordinary body of work in many different styles and genres. In partnership with Lettice Ramsey she made portraits of many notable figures of the 1930s in the fields of science and culture and she became one of the most eminent portrait photographers of the twentieth century.
Her experimental photography using techniques such as solarisation and multiple exposure bears comparison with the innovations of Man Ray and Lee Miller, while her political convictions led her to produce important documentary records of the Soviet Union and the desperate situation of the unemployed in the Welsh Valleys. Critical to her work was a preoccupation with the face – her attention to the ‘shape and angle’ of the head lies at the root of all her work.
This book reproduces some of Helen Muspratt’s most important photographic images. The accompanying text by Jessica Sutcliffe is an intimate and revealing memoir of her mother, which offers a fascinating insight into her life, work and politics.
A new Bodleian exhibition Helen Muspratt Photographer, marks the recent and important gift of the Helen Muspratt photographic archive to the Bodleian Libraries, including over 500 original prints and surviving negatives. The exhibition of this work explores an extraordinary body of work in many different styles and genres from experimental photography using techniques such as solarisation, to social documentary and studio portraiture.