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Australian woman Esma Banner (1910–2001) was a keen amateur photographer who worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) between 1945 and 1951. While posted in Germany, Banner kept a diary, wrote over 100 letters to her family, kept official reports, took photographs and collected art and craft by Displaced Persons (DP). In particular, photography and family were important to her. She said in a letter home: “You are all always in my thoughts – every picture I take is for you”. This article primarily focuses on visual materials in Esma Banner's personal papers. Banner's collection substantially documents her professional relief work with UNRRA and the IRO, and through this, her interactions with other relief workers as well as displaced children and adults can be seen. Here Banner's photographs and albums are read alongside published materials, letters and diaries to reveal a range of political, personal and gendered understandings of post‐Second World War reconstruction work. The material also provides some insights into the experiences of forcibly displaced children and adults. Banner's photographs are used to reflect upon the place of visual and personal sources in writing histories of post‐Second World War reconstruction.


Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences

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Journal Article

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