Early 20th Century women photographers and filmmakers in Scotland

The main aim of this ongoing research is to show the breadth of work the women made, inspired by highland and island landscapes, as well as Scotland’s city life.

Jenny Brownrigg (The Glasgow School of Art)

Research themes include how the women recorded communities; the ways in which they captured historically significant moments and often changes to ways of life, work and industry; how they observed; how they observed place and nature; and how they recorded the place of women in both rural and city society. This research will result in a survey exhibition at City Art Centre, Edinburgh, in early 2022.

Brownrigg is currently researching thirteen women, including Edinburgh photographer Violet Banks (1886-1985). Veronica Fraser, an archivist at Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) wrote about Banks’ life in
‘Vernacular Buildings’ (P67-78, ‘Vernacular Building 32’, Scottish Vernacular Buildings Working Group 2008-2009, ISSN:0267-3088):

Violet Banks (1886-1985) was born near Kinghorn, Fife and educated at Craigmont, Edinburgh, and at ECA (Edinburgh College of Art). In 1927 she was senior arts mistress at St. Oran’s, a private school at Drummond Place, Edinburgh’.

Banks’ photographs of the Hebrides were the result of a tour she made during the late 1920s / early 1930s. In 1935, Violet Banks established her own commercial photography studio in Edinburgh, going on to take numerous photographs of Scotland’s capital city.

A Day in Edinburgh, (1934, Grant & Murray), Photographs by Violet Banks and J. Campbell Harper, writing by H.B. Kay

In Practicing Landscape: Land, Histories and Transformation, Brownrigg presents ten original photographs that Banks’ produced as postcards as well as one brochure entitled ‘A Day in Edinburgh’ (1934, Grant & Murray). Brownrigg has collected these items via separate eBay purchases, an action mirroring the precarity of women’s work in archives. Indeed, Banks’ own photography of the Highlands and Islands only came to light when discovered by John Dixon of Georgian Antiques, in a drawer in a sideboard that had been part of a furniture purchase and then gifted to Royal Commission for the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) to become The Violet Banks Collection.

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