100-year-old images of a girl in red, taken by Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman at Lulworth Cove in 1913, went down a storm on social media and even caught the attention of the world’s press. Some said that the photos looked almost contemporary; others called her ‘a Flickr pin-up for the 20th century’.
One question remained: who was Christina, the star model in the captivating images on show in our Drawn by Light exhibition? Initially, she was thought to be the daughter of O’Gorman, the amateur photographer who took the photographs. But research showed he had no children, meaning her true identity remained unknown—until now.
As a result of seeing the images in a newspaper, retired technician Stephen Riddle contacted our curator of Photographs and Photographic Technology, Colin Harding, to say he had a set of stereoscopic slides by Mervyn O’Gorman, which had been passed to him by his father-in-law.
Colin picks up the story:
We’re very grateful to Stephen for contacting us and were genuinely thrilled to see the images. After all the recent attention Christina had been getting I hoped they’d give us sufficient clues to finally confirm her identity. It turns out Christina wasn’t O’Gorman’s daughter. Indeed, she wasn’t a relative—either close or distant.
From piecing together caption information from the stereo-autochromes we’ve been able to solve the mystery of Christina’s identity. Her full name was Christina Elizabeth Frances Bevan and she was born in Harrow on 8 March 1897. Christina was the daughter of Edwyn Robert Bevan and Hon. Mary Waldegrave, who was known to family and friends as Daisy. They had two daughters—Christina, and Anne Bevan—and lived just a two-minute walk from the O’Gormans’ family home.
We might never know what the precise relationship was between the two families but, whatever the link, both families were clearly on friendly, first-name terms. Certainly, the friendship was sufficient for Mervyn to accompany Daisy and her two daughters on a trip to Lulworth Cove in August 1913, where he took portraits of Christina.
If it wasn’t for Stephen taking the trouble to contact us and sharing these beautiful autochromes, we might never have discovered the secret of who Christina was.
If you’d like your own reproduction of Mervyn O’Gorman’s photographs of Christina, you can order prints via the Science & Society Picture Library.