August WTC Photo of the Month
In 1944, the Ministry of Supply (MoS) published Meet The Members to raise money for the WLA Benevolent Fund. This short publication, the equivalent of Vita Sackville-West’s The Women’s Land Army for the Women’s Timber Corps, was the first official history of the organisation.
The publication contained several accounts written by women reflecting on the different jobs they carried out as Lumber Jills. Alongside these fascinating accounts were several glossy photographs showing women at work.
The twelve photographs endorsed by the MoS and included in the publication, frequently showed women in a partially-forested environment carrying out a range of forestry tasks. Two photographs captured the physical act of felling, with the tree in motion before it hit the ground.
Such shots not only showcased the power which women yielded over the natural environment, but also the skill of the photograph as they captured the moment the tree began to fall. It is one of these photographs that we consider in this post.
The photograph originally published in Illustrated London News, captioned ‘Timber!’, shows the very moment when the tree fell at the behest of two Lumber Jills, one of whom runs away to avoid being hit by the falling tree.
The backdrop of the valley gives this photograph a dramatic quality, showcasing how women, who at the beginning of the war, had most likely never felled a tree before, where now altering the forest landscape to increase the country’s timber production. Five other trees framed the image, with the absence of their smaller branches, likely indicating that the women had prepared these for felling.
As I’ve mentioned before in this series, press photographers struck a balance between showcasing women’s work in the forests and attempting to relegate the wider impact of their impact on the landscape. Photographs achieved this through strategic framing, focusing in this case on the remaining trees pictured in front alongside the stunning backdrop.
Photographs such as this one published in Meet the Members, and others from the period, framed other natural parts of the landscape to distract the viewer’s attention from what women’s forestry work meant for the wider natural environment.