Edith Tudor-Hart grew up in Vienna against a backdrop of tumultuous change: the devastation of the First World War; the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the impact in 1917 of the Russian Revolution; and the transformation of Vienna itself, from an imperial capital to a socialist city. Her young life was intensely politicised and she played an energetic role in the post-war struggle to rebuild Viennese society along egalitarian lines. The city was governed by a social-democratic administration and it initiated a programme of radical reform, particularly in relation to working-class housing, education and culture. Much admired in progressive circles across Europe, Red Vienna was born.
Tudor-Hart photographed many aspects of Vienna’s political culture, from the crowds that attended the May Day marches, to the poverty and unemployment that beset the city and its programme of municipal reform. She eked out a living as a photojournalist, but also sought to make sense of an increasingly tense political situation. Looking to the model of fascist Italy, national politics was becoming more authoritarian. In this context the negatives that survive are a vital record of the dying days of Austrian democracy. At the same time, Tudor-Hart herself was becoming ever more implicated in communist activism.