Press photography in Australia

The University of Melbourne will launch the first comprehensive study of the history and significance of press photography in Australia, across all states and territories.


Press photography has long influenced how Australians have understood themselves and their world. This project, funded by the Australian Research Council (LP 120200458) with the National Library of Australia and the Walkley Foundation, documents the history of Australian press photography, from the first published news photograph (in 1888) to the way press photography is used today. The research focuses upon changes and continuities in how the Australian press has used photographs over time. This includes examining the seismic advances in technology and its impact on news photography and the ethical and editorial issues surrounding news photography. It also looks at the ways that news photography can blur the boundaries between public and private worlds, at the evolution of the profession and the use of amateur and agency photographs in newspapers, and editorial shifts in the placement, captioning and framing of news photos. The research also considers the photographic representation of Australia and the world, including international events, politics and leadership, war, crime, gender, immigration, protest, women, disaster and sport.

The outcomes of the research will be communicated through a book, conference presentations and articles and many public events. One of its most important initiatives is the collection of sixty oral history interviews with Australian newspaper and magazine photographers to be kept at the National Library of Australia’s Oral History and Folklore collection. The NLA’s collection records the voices that describe our cultural, intellectual and social life and the interviews will give illuminating insight into the experiences and lives of our press photographers.

Work on Press Photography in Australia was undertaken as part of the Australian Research Council’s Linkage Projects funding scheme (project number LP120200458).

Lead researcher and prominent journalist Mr Michael Gawenda says he was thrilled to have secured a $200,000 Australian Research Council grant to fund the study Press Photography in Australia. "This project will enable us to look at an area of journalism that is often neglected: the place of photography in Australian journalism and the way photography has recorded major events in Australian history," he says. "It will look at how the photograph – and now video – has been used in journalism to record social and political change."

"This is a wonderful project at a time when journalism is in a great period of change and the use of photography and video is increasingly important in the digital age, "Mr Gawenda says. In a journalism career spanning more than three decades, Mr Gawenda has been a political reporter, foreign correspondent, columnist and was Editor-in-Chief of The Age from 1997 to 2004.

Professor Sally Young from the University’s School of Social and Political Sciences, Professor Kate Darian-Smith (Honorary), from the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies and Associate Professor Fay Anderson from the School of Journalism, Australian and Indigenous Studies, Monash University will also work on the research project.



Journal articles

  • Anderson, F. (2014) "Collective Silence: The Australian Press Reporting of Suffering during the World Wars," in Journalism History, 40(3), pp. 148-57
  • Anderson, F. (2014) "Chasing the Pictures: Press and Magazine Photography," in Media International Australia, No. 150, pp. 47-55

Conference papers

  • Anderson, F. (2015) “‘A Strange Alchemy:’ The State of Australian Press Photography,” History Section – The Conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research, Montreal, 12 - 16 July 2015
  • Anderson, D., Anderson, F. and Lindgren, M. (2015) “The Unguarded Moment: Telling Stories of Trauma, Resistance and Renewal,” Ethics of Society and Ethics of Communication Section – The Conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research, Montreal, 12 - 16 July 2015
  • Young, S. (2015), “Foundational Moments in Australian Press Photography,” Australian Historical Association Conference, University of Sydney, 9 July 2015
  • Anderson, F. (2014), “From World War One to Afghanistan, Armenia to Gaza: Showing images of suffering then and Now,” Keynote address for the ‘Media, War and Memory’ Conference, Auckland University of Technology, 18 to 19 September 2014
  • Anderson, F. (2014) ““Take the Picture": Australian Press Photographers, Crime and Gender,” International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) annual conference, University of Hyderabad, India, 16-19 July 2014
  • Anderson, F. (2012) ““Shooting the Body”: Photographing Our Boys and Violence during World War Two,” presented at the Violence Studies Conference, Humanities Research Institute and the Centre for the History of Violence at the University of Newcastle, 21-24 August 2012, Crowne Plaza, Newcastle

More information

For more information, please contact:

Professor Sally Young

Visit the Press Photography in Australia website