Q & A with Dorothy Bohm

How do you feel your early experiences have shaped the way you work?

I have no doubt whatsoever that my early experiences of becoming a child refugee have shaped the way I see the world around me. The kindness that ordinary people showed me after arriving alone at 14 in this country has made me want to photograph ordinary people. Beginning as an outsider has given me an objectivity when I photograph.


Why were you drawn to photography?

I was told after finishing school at 16 that, because I would have to earn a living, I should study a vocational course. I had been told that I was observant and, after talking to a relative who was married to an artist and studio photographer, it seemed I might be suited to this career. My interest in people helped me to try and understand the subjects of my studio portraiture .


What other artists or photographers have influenced you?

At first I did not know any other photographers, but I was very interested in meeting artists and seeing their work. In particular during my college days I met an artist and designer called Marie Nordlinger who encouraged my studio photography, and later my work with natural light. Another artist was Avigdor Arikha who, when later I lived in Paris, introduced me to the concept of looking and capturing the more unusual images. The humanist photographers Cartier-Bresson, André Kertesz (who became a wonderful friend), Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Bill Brandt are photographers I much admire.


What advice would you give young photographers today?

Firstly, your interest in seeing life must be important to you. The eyes behind the camera are more important than the equipment you use.


What moment in your photography career to date have you been most proud of?

When I was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 2009, and also when I was able to help other photographers who needed encouragement.