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Emma Wood obituary | Art and design


My former partner Emma Wood, who has died aged 72, was a photographer and picture researcher. She also devoted a large part of her life to political and feminist campaigning.

She was born Irene Gambie in Fulham, south-west London, to Fred Gambie, a bank messenger, and his wife, Iris (nee Burton), a civil servant. After attending Norbury Manor girls’ school in south London she became estranged from her parents, who did not approve of her becoming pregnant outside marriage. Being a great admirer of Jane Austen, she changed her name to Emma Wood.

I met Emma in the summer of 1970 at Keele University, where we were both students. She was a young single mother just starting a degree in French, living off campus with her son, Alex. She dropped out of Keele in 1973, but went on to gain a humanities degree from the Open University.

Thereafter she worked as a photographer and picture researcher, setting up her own business called Imagine. She also worked for the Hulton picture library and contributed to Encarta, a digital multimedia encyclopedia published by Microsoft.

Emma retired in the early 2000s to devote her time to writing and campaigning, and shortly afterwards a paper she wrote on the well-known studio photographer George Charles Beresford gained her membership of the Royal Photographic Society.

A passionate advocate of women’s and housing rights, she was sometimes difficult to work with, but her penetrating intellect and seriousness of purpose could never be doubted. From the early 1970s onwards she had been an active member of the Wages for Housework campaign and the Power of Women Collective, and she had also attended some of the early National Women’s Liberation Conferences.

She spent most of her life in North Kensington, London, where, latterly, she became a member of the local Labour party – having previously been a member of both the Communist party and the New Communist party.

We had a daughter, Lilith, in 1974, but after we separated in 1976 we remained close friends, and I collaborated with her on one of her last projects – a catalogue of the papers of the North Kensington printer Mike Braybrook, which are of interest to researchers of the politics and culture of Ladbroke Grove from the 1960s to the 90s.

The catalogue and collection has been accepted into the British Library collection.

Emma loved Austen and Virginia Woolf, and wrote several essays of literary criticism on Woolf, including Kew Gardens: The Allegory of the Snail and the Green Insect, which was recently published in the Woolf Society Bulletin.

She had a third child, Jim, with Conor Lynch, to whom she was married; they later separated. Conor died in 2012.

She is survived by her children, Alex, Lilith and Jim, and her grandchildren, Liam, Melissa, Sadie and Aisha.

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