Since their inception, newspapers have played a huge role in society, bringing news to the masses.
At first there was simply text, then engravings of artists interpretations of an event and then line drawings from photographs. Eventually the technology allowed photographs themselves to be reproduced and so the newspaper photographer came into being.
The Age, a Melbourne institution, in the 1920’s employed their first photographer, Hugh Bull, a cheeky Englishman who walked into The Age three days after arriving in Australia seeking a job. He had brought his Speed Graphic camera with him, claiming ‘plenty of experience’ with English newspapers (he’d worked in the darkroom of London’s Daily Graphic) and so began a career that lasted until the1960’s.
Many great photographers followed in his footsteps, capturing life not only in Melbourne, but more widely, including many overseas locations as the stories demanded.
Photography of The Age: Newspaper photography in Australia from glass plates to digital is a substantial book weaving a little of the history of the Age with an insight into the characters who were, and are, The Age photographers. The book covers a wide gamut from history, to characters, to the mechanics of putting The Age together today in this digital era.
More importantly there is insight into how and why newspaper photographers work. It is a far cry from the Hollywood depiction of a journalist telling ‘his’ photographer “Take that, now”.
A good newspaper photographer needs to keep abreast of current affairs, to anticipate events, be aware of things going on around him but most of all be prepared for the unexpected. A good newspaper photographer will seek out his own images and on a news job with other photographers attempt to get an exclusive that the opposition misses. The technology has changed but the challenges to get that special image are still the same.
As you browse through this book, memories are stirred as numerous iconic images are seen once again. I know it is a virtually impossible task to encapsulate such a rich photographic history into a single volume but as someone who also worked as a newspaper photographer in Melbourne (on the opposition Melbourne Herald) I know there are many great photographs by the photographers mentioned that sadly weren’t included.
MAPgroup has a number of members whose work has appeared in The Age, either as staff photographers, casuals or as contributors.
Melbourne writer and photographer Terry Lane summed it up beautifully “Kathleen Whelan has created a truly brilliant tribute to some great photographers (available at kathleenwhelan.com – $44.95 including postage).