As Dorothy Bohm's train pulled out of the station in June 1939, her father reached over and hung his camera around her neck.

As a 15-year-old leaving Lithuania for an English boarding school, she had little interest in photography, but she told the Ham&High: "Fate is a very strange thing."

“My father was wanted by the Nazis and got me a visa. He loved photographing things, though I was a podgy little thing and hated being photographed. As I leant out of the railway carriage to say goodbye, he took off his Leica and said ‘this might be useful’."

Ham & High: Dorothy Bohm in March 2023 photographed by her grand-daughter SarahDorothy Bohm in March 2023 photographed by her grand-daughter Sarah (Image: Sarah Nicholas)

Within months Britain was at war, and Dorothy's Jewish family were in grave peril. Her father's parting gift was the start of a lifelong career as a renowned street photographer - capturing her extensive travels and beloved Hampstead where she settled in 1956.

For 20 years she was unaware that her parents and baby sister had been deported by the Soviets, which almost certainly saved their lives. Dorothy got on with studying photography at Manchester College of Technology and worked in a portrait studio before founding her own  aged just 21.

At 16 she had met Louis Bohm, a Polish student whose family perished in the Warsaw Ghetto. They married in 1945 and enjoyed a blissfully happy and supportive marriage with their two daughters.

“Meeting him was the greatest fortune of my life," she told me. "He was a wonderful man and a great optimist and he encouraged my photography, which was rare for the '40s."

Ham & High: Paris, 1958. It was in the French capital that she first started street photographyParis, 1958. It was in the French capital that she first started street photography (Image: Dorothy Bohm)

Through Louis' job they travelled to Paris, Switzerland, Israel, New York and Mexico. It was in Paris in 1947 that Dorothy first took to street photography.

“As soon as I could afford to, I moved away from portraits. Street photography is much more difficult and exciting. To be able to read the light and capture a moment that will pass. Because all my past had gone, having a record of things that I loved was very important to me.”

Ham & High: Dorothy Bohm in the 1970sDorothy Bohm in the 1970s (Image: Courtesy of the family of Dorothy Bohm)

By the 1980s she was working in colour. Preferring film over digital and taking her camera on trips around Hampstead or visits to South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, and Egypt.

“It’s so easy with digital to click, click, click, but I don’t release the shutter unless I am sure it’s what I want and never more than three of the same subject. I work very quickly and dress unobtrusively. I am in charge, not the camera. I look for things that are beautiful – there is so much ugliness about - and I look for something that moves me. I can’t photograph without feelings.”Ham & High: Hampstead Heath pond 2003Hampstead Heath pond 2003 (Image: Dorothy Bohm)

Her daughter the art historian Monica Bohm-Duchen says: "We took it as a given that when we came back from school she wouldn't be making tea but would be in the dark room. We would knock first, and I have lovely memories of helping her print her work.

"She was a profound humanist who believed we should remember what unites the human race rather than what divides us. Coming out of that wartime dislocation into a safe harbour she had a sense of the vulnerability and degradation of human beings and an interest in portraying their dignity, coupled with a sense for capturing the right moment, and an aesthetic eye for satisfying composition that makes them transcend a moment in time."

She adds: "She was a funny mix of modesty, being pleasantly bemused by all the attention, and a sense of her professional standing."

Ham & High: Hampstead antique shop 1960sHampstead antique shop 1960s (Image: Dorothy Bohm)

Closely associated with founding The Photographers' Gallery in Covent Garden in 1971, Dorothy exhibited there numerous times, and her work is held by the Tate, V&A and NPG.

Photography helped her to cope after Louis' death in 1994, and she held regular exhibitions including at Burgh House which was already planning a major exhibition for her 100th birthday.

Director Mark Francis said: "We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of legendary photographer Dorothy Bohm. Burgh House is honoured to have a selection of her remarkable pictures in our collection and I was greatly privileged to have worked with Dorothy on an exhibition and celebration here for her 90th birthday, to witness first hand her fascinating life and her skill. We can think of no better tribute to her life and work than bringing her photography to the public in what would have been her centenary year. As a photographer Dorothy captured life in all its realness, the beauty of the everyday and had an exceptional eye for light." Ham & High: Oaxaca Mexico 1956Oaxaca Mexico 1956 (Image: Dorothy Bohm)

Dorothy loved Hampstead and always appreciated her adopted country.

“You take it for granted but for people like me, who lost so much and saw in different times how people behaved to each other, I feel very lucky living here. Life has been full.”

Dorothy Bohm is survived by daughters Monica and Yvonne, four grand-children and two great-grandchildren. A celebration of her life is planned at Burgh House for what would have been her 99th birthday.