Norwich Works: The Industrial Photography of Walter & Rita Nurnberg shines a spotlight on the remarkable and beautiful photographs by Walter and Rita Nurnberg capturing post-war working life in three Norwich factories. Their journey from the archives to the gallery wall is a fascinating one of chance and rediscovery.
The story began in 2020 when Dr Nick Warr, Lecturer in Art History and Curation at the University of East Anglia, was approached by a curator of the Museum of Norwich for his opinion on the conservation of a photographic album of Edwards & Holmes shoe factory workers.
Covid intervened before he was able to examine the album in person, and it wasn’t until August 2021 that Dr Warr could see the images for himself. What he found was an archive of photographs of extraordinary quality which immediately prompted further research into the photographer behind the captivating images: Walter Nurnberg.
This led him to the archives of the Norfolk Record Office where he discovered more examples of Nurnberg’s work carefully preserved among their Boulton & Paul and Mackintosh-Caleys archive collections. Enthused by the wealth of material he was uncovering, especially in relation to Rita Nurnberg who processed and printed all of Walter’s negatives, he invited his university colleague, Dr Simon Dell, Associate Professor of Art History, to collaborate on the research.
The pair gave a public talk on their discoveries in Norwich which was to prove pivotal when an audience member recognised her grandfather as the subject of one of the images from the Edwards & Holmes album (image attached with this release). He’d worked at the shoe factory in the late 1940s and she even had the exact same photograph hanging on her wall at home.
The encounter inspired the proposal for an exhibition, co-curated by Dr Warr and Dr Dell, which celebrates both the artistic quality of the Nurnbergs’ work, while also telling the stories of those workers who helped restore life to the city of Norwich after the trauma of war.
Walter & Rita Nurnberg, Norwich Shoemaker, Edwards & Holmes, Esdelle Works, Norwich, Gelatin silver print, 1948, ⓒ Norfolk Museums Service (Museum of Norwich)