These photographers were taken by Adelie “Front Page” Hurley, who died in 2010. A pin-up girl in the 1930s, in the 1940s she moved behind the camera to become one of Australia’s leading press photographers in what, at the time, was an all-male profession. From opium den raids and undercover expeditions to trips to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, Adelie secured many front-page scoops and did it all wearing her perfectly applied, signature red lipstick.
But it was her photographs of the Australian landscape published in the 1950s and 1960s that really changed the visual culture of this country. Published in lavish spreads in the Australian Women’s Weekly, for the first time they brought images of the bush, of Arnhem land, the desert and remote coastal regions into the imagination of urban Australia. This country is beautiful, her images said, and unique.
At a time when we all take pictures with devices we carry around in our back pockets and the ‘citizen photographer’ is a major contributor to news coverage, Adelie’s story highlights an earlier period, when major newspapers employed scores of male photographers, who worked heavy photographic equipment in a highly masculine and competitive environment that was dominated by the dual sites of the pub and the darkroom. With determination, courage and a good deal of mischievousness, Adelie forged a distinctive presence in the media and in the process changed photojournalism in Australia.
Find out more about Adelie by listening to the ABC RN Earshot episode (Nov 2017), produced by Tamson Pietsch.