Little Happenings: Photographs of Children by Dorothy Bohm HonFRPS

09 January 2019


Closes: 17th March 2019

Free entry


Little Happenings: Photographs of Children by Dorothy Bohm includes a significant number of never-before-seen works revealed to the public for the first time. Spanning 12 countries over seven decades, the display shows how the idea of childhood and early social interactions have been a source of inspiration for Bohm during her extensive travels throughout her long career. This is the first ever exhibit to solely focus on Bohm’s reflections on childhood and it aims to explore the universal aspects of childhood.


From a young, smiling girl playing in a cardboard box in San Francisco, to Palestinian children playing with Israeli children in Haifa, Israel, to a contemplative photograph of a granddaughter sitting with her grandfather in Greece, Bohm’s work represents hope and a strong belief in humanity.

Haifa Israel April 1959 photographer Dorothy Bohm c Dorothy Bohm Archive
Haifa, Israel, April 1959. 


Bohm’s early work was in black-and-white, which she took pride in developing in her own darkroom. From 1980 onwards, after visiting the studio of André Kertész, a close friend and renowned photographer in New York, she began experimenting with colour and subsequently moved away from black and white entirely. Kertész coined the phrase “little happenings” to describe the split-second capturing of visual moments that Bohm took to heart as the essence of photography. 

Early works and as well as later colour images will be presented in a series of themes exploring family and sibling relationships, friendship, play and creativity, dressing up and imagination, to illustrate the universality of childhood. Bohm worked quickly, and nearly always spontaneously, to capture fleeting moments and in her words, “to capture life”. 

Portsmouth Square Chinatown San Francisco Aprill 1956 copyright Dorothy Bohm Archive

Portsmouth Square, Chinatown, San Francisco, Aprill 1956.


Dorothy Bohm, said: “Photography has been my chosen profession, but also a fascination throughout my long life. I have tried to capture something of the world around me, fragments of time, to stop time. I have always been drawn to children in particular. They have always been the most natural thing for me to photograph.”


About Dorothy Bohm:


Dorothy Bohm (née Israelit) was born in 1924 in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) to a Jewish Lithuanian family, who moved to Lithuania in 1932. In 1939, at the age of fourteen, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Bohm was sent to boarding school in Sussex, England, to escape the threat of Nazism. On boarding the train, her father gave her his Leica camera as a parting gift. This was her first introduction to photography. It would be over 20 years until she saw her parents and her younger sister again, after they miraculously survived Soviet labour camps in Siberia.


Bohm moved to Manchester a year after arriving in England to be with her brother, enrolling at Manchester College of Technology to study photography. After graduating she established a career in studio portraiture, a booming business in wartime Britain. Manchester was also where she met her future husband, Louis Bohm. In 1947, Bohm took her first trip to Switzerland and from this point became fascinated and challenged by photographing in natural light and capturing moments of ordinary people going about their lives around the world.


Her work was first exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in 1969. The positive critical response to this exhibition led Bohm to help co-found The Photographers’ Gallery in London with Sue Davies. She remained involved with the gallery as its Associate Director for fifteen years. She has since had her work exhibited in over 25 venues across the UK and internationally and has published fifteen books of her photographs.




V&A Museum of Childhood

Cambridge Heath Road,

E2 9PA




Picture copyright: Dorothy Bohm Archive.