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Our collection includes these beautiful Kodachrome portraits of women in the armed forces, photographed during the Second World War.

Today and tomorrow, Bradford College are hosting the WAR conference, which will explore representations of people, cultures and landscapes touched, intertwined and transformed by war from 1914 to the present day.

Pam Brook, lecturer at Bradford College, will be looking at representations of women in Britain and France during the Second World War. She says:

I intend to examine themes of the representation of femininity. Many of the [paintings and photographs of women] were of a ‘heroic’ nature showing women engaged in war work and often in non-traditional roles such as munitions, farm work and transport. They were often shown in uniform or in garments that were not typically associated with feminine dress but yet project an idealised concept of womanhood.

We have a series of portraits of women in the armed forces in our collection, photographed by J.C.A. Redhead.

Miss Kamp, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Miss Kamp, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, Science Museum Group collection

John Cyril Alfred Redhead (1886–1954) was born in London but emigrated to America as a young man. By 1911 he was the manager of a portrait studio at Niagara Falls but returned to Britain later that year to take up a job with Kodak Limited. After the First World War he became manager of the Kodak photo-finishing department at Harrow.

As well as his managerial responsibilities, Redhead continued to take portraits. During the Second World War, Redhead’s senior position at Kodak gave him privileged access to scarce supplies of Kodachrome colour film imported from America. He used this to photograph many celebrities and senior military figures of the time, as well as ordinary men and women serving in the armed forces.

Lieutenant Doyle, c. 1944, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Lieutenant Doyle, c. 1944, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, Science Museum Group collection
Mrs Claude Elliott WVS, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Mrs Claude Elliott WVS, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, Science Museum Group collection
Margaret Bourke White, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Margaret Bourke White, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, Science Museum Group collection
Mrs Bateman, US Navy, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Mrs Bateman, US Navy, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, Science Museum Group collection
Miss Carter, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Miss Carter, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, Science Museum Group collection
Mrs Cooke. WVS, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, National Media Museum Collection / SSPL
Mrs Cooke. WVS, c. 1943, John Cyril Alfred Redhead, Science Museum Group collection

One comment on “John Cyril Redhead’s beautiful Kodachrome portraits of women at war

  1. Hi. I am a grand-daughter of JCA Redhead and would like to find more information about his life in America. Sadly I’ve only just stumbled upon this exhibition. JCAR’s daughter ( my mother ) was still alive when it was shown. I wish we had seen it. Can you till me what information you hold about him please? He doesn’t come up on the radar of a simple V&A photographic archive search. I still have a few of his minor cameras and some of photographs .

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