Clubmen Characters

Clubmen Characters

No, this is not an article about those odd people who frequent sporting or licensed clubs playing sports or the poker machines, propping up the bar or feeding in the bistro. It is actually about some of the men who have been members of the Canberra Photographic Society (CPS) over the years – some are still members. Yes, photographic clubs have clubmen characters too!

Take Murray for starters. Now there is a real character. Murray hails from New Zealand. That makes him different for a start. He used to own and use a CAP 40 colour print processor and go bushwalking with a view camera. When he was CPS President he used to deliver delightful Presidential reports at annual meetings whilst stroking his long beard. He wore John Lennon glasses when he lost his contact lenses. And took pictures with a Widelux. Definitely a character.

EPSON MFP imageMurray Foote

I think this image of Murray and all the others below were taken by either Alan Chapple or Jim Mason on one CPS meeting night. Jim is 90% sure they were all taken by Alan.

What about Orlando? We were amused when he first showed us a picture and told us the exposure time was “two cups of coffee”. Who else would put their camera on the still warm bonnet of their car to photograph a tree lit by a street light when the temperature was close to freezing? We used to wonder if he realised cameras worked by daylight too. He became a complete expert on night imagery, had a one man exhibition of night photos and could even make night shots look like they were taken in daylight. Another bearded character he was.

EPSON MFP imageOrlando Luminere

Keith was the one who was most likely to enter into debate with the judges. When you’ve been involved with photography as long as he had, why shouldn’t you take the judges to task? “I know Mr Kodak has made it possible to record every colour of the rainbow, but do we have to have them all in the one image?” Keith was a most suitable subject for photographic character studies – grey hair and beard, glasses, pipe smoker, and a well-rounded figure. A good place to capture him was at the arts and crafts market at Gorman house when he was selling his own black and white prints. There was no such thing as colour in Keith’s photographic world!

EPSON MFP imageKeith Bogg

Fred was another bespectacled and bearded character who had been around the game for a long time. He really liked to stir up judges too. Montages of numerous postcard-sized commercial prints joined together to create an overall impression of a place. Or why not a laser copy print rather than one produced using an enlarger? Anything for a stir.

EPSON MFP imageFred Doutch (I think that’s right)

Ian, on the other hand to Keith, was a colour worker only. Didn’t sport a beard either. Graduated tobacco filters warmed his cool skies. Speed filters made static objects move. Trees and people were known to grow during Ian’s exposures. Statues of athletes began to perform like the real persons they represented. Bold black shadows created patterns over colourful flower beds when Ian’s camera or enlargers worked their montage magic!

EPSON MFP imageIan McInnes

Maurie managed to capture his images in both colour and monochrome. He loved the high country, especially when it was covered by snow. And he didn’t mind whether it was in Australia, Switzerland, France or wherever. He loved it and that love showed in his photographs of it. Told us he was working on a ten year project to document the Kosciusko National park region in all of its seasons. Hoped to publish a book about it one day. Lectured for us occasionally – quite esoteric and moved well. Wore a beard too!

EPSON MFP imageMaurie Weidemann

Bob’s main claim to fame was that he was the shortest, bearded member of the club. In terms of physical height that is. For some curious reason he was also interested in the Society’s history and was able to provide, or extract, odd snippets of information from our archives from time to time. Bob didn’t take as many photos as some of us and the unkind were known to make sarcastic remarks when a placing in the monthly competition revealed his camera had been used.

EPSON MFP imageBob Legge

Denis was a lawyer so I must be very, very careful with what I say about him. He didn’t have a beard, loved cats, had raced bicycles and had a habit of putting captions under some of his prints. Once he even did a photo series illustrating the adventures of a toy exploring parts of Canberra. Reminds me a little of that other member who photographs a spoon in odd places. I hope I’ve avoided a lawsuit.

EPSON MFP imageDenis Jessop

Trevor was another member, with a touch of what one might call rotundity. He liked to photograph cars and planes. Fast cars, fast planes. On display and static. Or doing their thing. Trevor only ever sported a moustache. Does anyone remember his surname?

EPSON MFP imageTrevor

Colin was a dentist. Not that that has anything to do with his photography. Except that he had been known to photograph the shadows of his dental equipment on the wall of his surgery. Actually Colin was quite keen on photographing shadows generally. Perhaps it came from having x-rayed shadows in teeth? Another clean shaven member.

EPSON MFP imageColin Rickard

I could go on for ever. There was another Peter and a couple more Johns. There was Ross, Bruce, Brendan and yours truly. I don’t know all the names to go with the images, so if you can help with identifying someone please let me know.

EPSON MFP imagePeter Dawson

EPSON MFP imageJohn Coen

EPSON MFP imageJohn (Jack) Clarke

EPSON MFP imageRoss Yarnold?

EPSON MFP imageWho was this?

EPSON MFP imageAnd who was this?

EPSON MFP imageYours truly Brian Rope

As you can see all these men made quite good character studies when cameras are trained on them by other members. And, yes, I know we have women members too in the club – and none of them have beards. But, as they say, that’s another story.

– Brian Rope

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The Great Bicentenary Photography Project

All around Australia in 1988 people celebrated in thousands of different ways. The images were there for the taking.

To help Aussies celebrate Australia’s Bicentenary our various levels of government poured many of our tax and rates dollars into a myriad of projects and events. Through one arrangement, known as the Local Government Initiative Grants Scheme. A group of Canberra Photographic Society (CPS) photographers were given an opportunity to record our city’s celebrations.

The Australian Bicentennial Authority and the ACT Administration funded the CPS project. Members of the CPS photographed as many as possible of the Bicentennial events in Canberra. The ACT Administration bought the film and paid for all processing. The CPS members shot the film and did much of the processing. They were not paid, except for the processing costs. But retained unencumbered rights to use and market their own pictures.

There were something like 500 endorsed or funded Bicentennial events and projects, and many other private celebrations, in Canberra.

At the small event end of the scale we had a lady who painted a fire hydrant outside her home in green and gold – only to become the immediate target of some protestors opposing the Bicentenary and some neighbours who didn’t like the end result. The major event, perhaps, was the visit by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to officially open our stunning new Parliament house. In between, there was everything from the establishment of a heritage trail around Lake Burley Griffin to a massed display of one million flowering bulbs and annuals in Commonwealth Park from 17 September to 9 October – the inaugural Floriade. There was even a photography convention, APSCON’88, conducted by the Australian Photographic Society.

Events photographed by the CPS members included the Street Machine Summernats, a Friendship Cycle Ride, several festivals, a visit by cadets of the Japanese Tall Ship (the Nippon Maru) and the unveiling of an enormous three part painting. Over 4000 images had been produced by early May 1988. Some had been published, some had been sold, copies had been requested by and given to politicians, and some had been entered with success in CPS competitions.

The major objective was for the ACT Administration to mount an exhibition of 100 prints in early 1989, at first in Canberra but, hopefully, to then go on a tour throughout Australia and, even, overseas.

By the end of 1988, six thousand images had been created by seventeen different CPS members during seventy different Bicentennial events, with some events covered by more than one of the photographers. Only one of the photographed events took place outside of Canberra. That was a voyage on the Young Endeavour sail training ship in Sydney harbour by a group of young Canberra people with disabilities or terminal illnesses.

One hundred of the images were selected for the exhibition, sixty seven in colour (half from negatives and half from transparencies) and thirty three in black and white. Forty of the images were printed for the exhibition by the photographers themselves. The others were printed by a professional laboratory. There was a concentration in the images on the people of Canberra participating in the celebrations, which happened to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the City of Canberra.

Of the seventeen CPS members who participated just one was not represented in the exhibition, which took place at the then Link Gallery in the Canberra Theatre Centre in March 1989.

Keith Bogg took 900 photographs at fifteen events. These included a senior Citizens Garden Party and Concert, the Australia Day Shooting Championships, the Multicultural Australia Day Jazz Festival, the launch of the History of Canberra and Lifeline’s Book Fair.

Jack Clarke took 324 photographs at 13 events, including Australia Day in the National Capital, the National Food and Wine Frolic and the recommissioning of the Paddle Steamer “Enterprise”. John Coen took 36 photos at just one event. Peter Dawson took 144 photos at the Royal Race Meeting. Fred Doutch took 360 photos at 10 events, including Lunch and All That Jazz, and the Official Opening of New Parliament House.

Murray Foote took 252 photos at five events, including the Canberra Festival and Versailles in Canberra. Murray was also involved in the Bicentenary in other ways. He produced colour images for the Bicentennial History of Australian Lighthouses “From Dusk to Dawn” and an exhibition of his prints from that project appeared at the Link Gallery (1988) and Parliament house (1989).

Trevor Gilbert and Denis Jessop each took 144 photos at two events. Bruce Harriott captured 360 images at four events. Bob Legge produced 72 images at the Great Australian Balloon Gathering. Ian McInnes captured 288 photos at three events, including Anzac Day and the Australian National Eisteddfod.

Brendan Mulhall took 360 photos at the National Capital Motathlon and the family fun run. Peter Paseka took 756 at nine events, Colin Rickard 72 at two events, Maurie Weidemann 432 at six events and Ross Yarnold 144 at four events.

I took more images than anyone – 1040 images at twenty eight events, including the Young Endeavour voyage on Sydney harbour on a wet and windy December day. Just a few of them are included below.  I was also involved in the Bicentennial in other ways; one being that I co-ordinated the community photography project “Personal Views” for the Australian Bicentennial Exhibition – and some of my own works were included in that touring exhibition.

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Cutting the cake at Launch of Australopedia by PM Hawke

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Young Canberrans with disabilities hauling on the rope on board the Young Endeavour on Sydney Harbour

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Proudly displaying his certificate of participation on the Young Endeavour voyage

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Royal Visit “Flags” on display. (The “flags” were designed by yours truly and not well received. The protocol people strongly objected to pennants being flown from flagpoles, and some people thought they looked like the silks worn by jockeys! One of them was presented to me at my farewell from the public service!)

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Cross at National Gathering (of Christians)

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Media photographers lined up at the Royal Race Meeting

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The Queen being escorted into the enclosure to present a trophy at the Royal Race Meeting

Our group of seventeen photographers were given a great opportunity to document the whole year of celebrations in our own city. CPS demonstrated the skills of its members when the 100 selected images were displayed in the Link Gallery exhibition, “Bicentennial celebrations in Canberra” in March 1989.

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Cover of program for “Bicentennial celebrations in Canberra”

After the exhibition concluded the 100 prints were placed in safe storage by the ACT Administration. The hoped for touring exhibition did not eventuate, but it was intended that appropriate prints from the collection would be put on display again at appropriate future times and events. That has never happened. Even worse, enquiries suggest that the collection of prints has disappeared; certainly nobody within the ACT Administration seems able to ascertain what happened to them. At least I have my own negatives and transparencies.

 

– Brian Rope

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Hedda Morrison’s Extraordinary Journey

My involvement with the camera club and amateur enthusiast photographer movement within Australia and overseas has brought me into personal contact with some remarkable photographers. I’ve been a member of camera clubs since 1971 (Queanbeyan-based clubs from 1971 to 1985 and the Canberra Photographic Society in 1971 and then again from 1986 until the present). I have also been involved extensively with the Australian Photographic Society and the International Federation of Photographic Art since 1976. However, my introduction to Hedda Morrison came about as the result of someone I met outside of those involvements.

I only met her in 1988. This small woman who contracted a severe bout of polio at the age of three. She died peacefully on 3 December 1991, almost eighty three. It was such a short part of her extraordinary life in which I came to know her. But I am grateful to have personally met, and shared some time, with Hedda Morrison.

My experience has been that few in the Australian photographic industry seem to be aware of this remarkable photographer’s story and achievements. Hedda’s modesty is part of the reason for that, but she and her images deserve to have been better known both in Australia and elsewhere. Let me share just a little with you.

Hedda was born Hedda hammer and her home town was Stuttgart in Germany. After undertaking studies at the Munich State institute for Photography in Germany, Hedda worked with a photographer named Lazi. She described him as ‘distinguished and demanding’.

Hedda saw an advertisement in a German photographic journal seeking a qualified woman photographer to manage a studio. The woman was required to be able to speak French and English and to be from the region of Swabia. A woman was sought because they were paid less, a Swabian because they were considered hard workers. Hedda realised that the job was tailor made for her.

The vacancy was with Hartungs Photo Studio in Beijing. Hedda obtained the position and travelled to China to take it up in 1933. She had been anxious to work overseas and the idea of going to faraway Beijing greatly appealed to her. This was to be the start of her great photographic adventure. Her family was not so enthusiastic and gave the twenty five year old a pistol as a parting gift. She dropped it overboard from the ship on the way from Trieste.

Despite her ability to speak French, English and German, it was necessary for Hedda to learn Chinese as soon as she arrived. An old gentleman taught her colloquial Chinese using sign language. He had never learned to read or write his own language.

Hartungs’ owner was a demanding businessman who required Hedda to work six days a week for him, managing a staff of seventeen men. Each working day was thirteen hours, plus unpaid overtime as necessary to meet urgent requirements. Nevertheless Hedda found many opportunities to capture her own images in Peking and throughout many other parts of China, mostly travelling alone. When her work contract was not renewed in 1938, Hedda opted to stay in China rather than return to a Germany preparing for war. Throughout the years of World War II, she worked primarily for a jewellery business.

During the period 1933 to 1946 Hedda captured some most remarkable images of China, including pictures of camels during a rare fall of snow in Peking and sense of Nanking Just after it had been ravaged. Those years encompassed Japanese occupation. Most images were made on Rolleiflex twin lens reflex cameras – in Hedda’s view “there has never been a better camera”. She also used a 9 x 12 cm Linhof Satzplasmat and a Makina 6 x 9 cm.

After leaving Hartungs, Hedda used her life savings to order photographic materials from Germany in 1941. They arrived by railway – just before the German invasion of the USSR. Hedda worked without electricity and had no running water. A portable car battery charged up by the local post office was used to operate her enlarger. It was a visiting Cartier-Bresson who suggested this arrangement to her. Eventually Hedda’s supply of materials ran out.

Some images of this period can be found in two of Hedda’s several books – “A Photographer in Old Peking” (Oxford University Press, 1985) and “Travels of a Photographer in China”, 1936-1944 (Oxford University Press, 1987). In his foreword to the first of these books, Wang Gungwu tells how Hedda mentioned her China photographs to him years earlier. “In her usual modest way, she described them as a beginner’s efforts.” The superb images show the reader many views of Peking which few Chinese ever saw, leave alone photographed.

The latter book moves beyond Peking to reveal the countryside and the people of China. One review of the book, by Sue Ferrari in the Winter 1988 issue of Against the Grain, noted that the majority of the 230 photographs “are of outstanding technical and compositional standards” and that “Hedda is printing from negatives that are 40 to 50 years old”. The review also expressed the hope that there would be more books of photos yet to be printed by Hedda. This book includes many images from an earlier one – “Hua Shan – Taoist Mountain in China” (1974), which unfortunately used inferior paper stock.

In 1940 Hedda met Alastair, a son of the famous Australian-born Peking correspondent for the London times and subject of Cyril Pearl’s biography “Morrison of Peking”. Alastair had gone to Peking to recuperate from illness and took over the house where Hedda was living. After the war, in 1946, she married Alastair Gwynne Morrison and together they left China for two years in Hong Kong.

The Morrisons moved to Sarawak in 1947 to allow Alastair to take up a position with the British administration there. Hedda took the opportunity to photograph the Iban (Sea Dyak) and people of other racial groups in their changing worlds. Sarawak also became the base for extensive travels throughout Asia and the Pacific. Those travels included visits to Australia. One visit took them on a five month journey right around the continent in a kombi van. One outcome was the book Sarawak (Federal publications, 1957) containing a remarkable collection of images taken with Rollei cameras on Kodak materials.

In 1988 a friend of Hedda who had learned of my involvement in photography told me about her. Terry Colhoun explained that the Morrisons had lived in Canberra since coming to Australia permanently in 1967. He asked whether I would look at some prints because he felt sure they belonged in the national gallery of Australia or another appropriate collection. I gladly agreed to the request and took Canberra Photographic Society members Jim Mason and Keith Bogg with me. We were overwhelmed by what we saw. To sit in Hedda’s home and look through a sample of her prints was to go on a wonderful journey of exploration. Image after images of almost every country in the Asia-Pacific region was there for enjoyment.

Hedda was able to identify from memory the location of every picture. Not that she needed to – her entire collection of more than 60,000 black and white negatives was intact and comprehensively catalogued. We learned that there had been only a small number of public exhibitions of any of the work and they had been nearly twenty years previously – two at the Menzies Library in Canberra; one in Sydney. Something had to be done.

During her twenty four years as a resident of Canberra, Hedda had the opportunity to take photographs at numerous National Press Club luncheons. This gave her an opportunity to capture various well known people on film. The Club, sadly, was not able to locate any of those images for me when approached while researching this article.

There were more travels overseas as well, including return visits to a very much changed China in 1979 and 1982. But Hedda’s real pleasure came from exploration of the Australian bush. In a four wheel drive vehicle, Hedda and Alastair travelled to many places in Australia. They bush walked and bird watched, and Hedda sensitively recorded our natural landscapes. By the time I met her, Hedda had slowed somewhat physically and was no longer venturing so far on foot. But she as still looking at landscapes, appreciating them and making new images.

In March 1989 Hedda shared some of her images with members of the Canberra photographic Society and other interested people from Canberra’s photographic community. As always she described herself modestly, but she nevertheless related some lovely anecdotes. She told how in the tropics’ high temperatures developing of film was done at 3 AM – the coolest part of the day. Film and print washing had to wait until hours later when the heavens released their regular afternoon downpours. She told how she created artificial light by igniting magnesium powder, puffed over burning Meta fuel by the bulb from an old style car horn – until obtaining her first flash until in 1949, long after leaving China.

Society members were convinced of the need to act. In March 1990, with modest financial assistance from Canberra’s then Pro Foto business, a retrospective exhibition of fifty years’ work was held in the Canberra Theatre Centre’s then Link Gallery, covering all areas visited during Hedda’s continuing journey. It was not easy to select the images to include. Some old prints were displayed but, at the age of 81, Hedda made many new prints on her now favoured Ilford materials.

The ACT Government’s then Minister responsible for the arts (later Senator) Gary Humphries opened the exhibition and became aware of Hedda and her life’s work. Numerous representatives of the photographic industry, as well as relevant government and visual arts organisations, were invited to attend in the hope that the importance of the collection would be recognised. Few came. One who did was Brian Keil, who started and operated Pro Foto. This was the flyer for the exhibition and (below) the image on the flyer:

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Below are are just three of the other images displayed in the exhibition, plus two captioned images I took at the opening:

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Hedda Morrison Exhibition Opening 2 - small

Hedda Morrison speaking with Gary Humphries (centre) and a guest at the exhibition opening

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Hedda Morrison speaking at the exhibition opening – CPS President Murray Foote (left) and Gary Humphries listening

The exhibition “Travels of an Extraordinary Photographer” was reviewed in The Canberra Times by Garry Raffaele who described her as an “extraordinary photographer” and wrote “her artifice-less pictures are shot through with rich undertones and rich social veins” and “She selects with a cutting eye and with great sensitivity”. Attempts to obtain sponsorship from the industry, so the show would travel around Australia, were not successful.

Arrangements were made for Helen Ennis, then Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia, to view Hedda’s prints. She was keen to acquire some of them for the Gallery’s collection. We recognised that the entire collection of negatives would, ideally, remain intact as the photographs were an extraordinary historical resource which needed to be preserved. At the time a Japanese institution wanted them, but there was a chance they would remain in Australia.

Subsequently, all the prints were given to two Australian institutions: the National Gallery of Australia and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. Helen Ennis was pleased with that arrangement. Hedda’s negatives, however, were to leave Australia. Alastair Morrison made the judgement that the negatives were of greater historical interest, rather than of specific photographic interest. Many institutions do not take negatives, being only interested in prints actually made by the authors. Alastair sought to ensure the negatives went to an institution that had the facilities to properly care for them.

In the few years that I knew Hedda Morrison I shared a number of wonderful times with her. Of course, Canberra Photographic Society had to invite her and Alastair to join in when it entertained two senior visiting Chinese photographers. We had two Chinese banquets with them – the best was the one when the Morrisons chose the dishes. When those two visitors saw some of her images at Hedda’s home in 1991, they were astounded and fund it difficult to accept that she had had access to such places as the private sections of the Forbidden City grounds. The Society was honoured to extend Honorary Life Membership to Hedda in 1990. It was a sad coincidence that she died on the day of the society’s 1991 awards presentation night.

In his obituary headlined “Photographic chronicler of pre-communist China”, The Canberra Times journalist Jack Waterford said “Hedda, a perky sparrow with a wonderful dry with and a touch of wickedness, practised her art to the last, and her passing is a great loss of a link to the past”. Anthropologist Professor Freeman brought a book of Hedda’s images to her funeral for all to enjoy. Many did and remembered her over a lunch which followed. We shared with Aaistair and each other what a privilege it had been to know this lady and see her unique images, which will be an enduring reminder of an extraordinary traveller and an inspiration to many. Her journey was over.

A new book “Hedda Morrison’s Hong Kong, Photographs and Impressions 1946-47” was published in September 2005 and initially launched in Hong Kong, where it aroused great interest amongst both older and younger people. The Australian launch of the book was held at the National Library of Australia on Thursday 24 November 2005. Then Canberra Photographic Society President Jim Mason and his wife Loralee attended the launch. So too did members Marion and Rob Milliken, and myself. There was a story about the book and the launch in The Canberra Times Panorama lift-out of Saturday 26 November. In brief, the book (by Australian photographer and writer Edward Stokes) was launched by Dr John Yu AM, President of the Australia-China Council (and previously Australian of the Year). Alastair Morrison also spoke, as did Edward Stokes and Linda Groom from the National Library. Numerous copies of the book were purchased, and signed by the author and Alastair Morrison. All the Canberra Photographic Society members present were amongst the purchasers

The new book by Edward Stokes was a welcome addition to the available material relating to Hedda’s photography. The negatives of the images in the book are now housed at the Harvard University and had been unseen since filed away by Hedda. Interestingly, Edward Stokes had been unaware of the retrospective exhibition that Canberra Photographic Society had organised in 1990 until we told him about it at his book launch.

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Edward Stokes (left) and Alastair Morrison at the book launch

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L. to R.: Brian Rope, Jim Mason, Marion Milliken, Alastair Morrison, Rob Milliken

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Edward Stokes signs a copy of the book

After Hedda’s death in December 1991, Alastair donated a number of Hedda’s items of photographic equipment to Canberra Photographic Society. The proceeds from the sale of those items were used to establish the annual Hedda Morrison Print Portfolio competition, now an important fixture on the Society’s calendar.

In 1993 the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney conducted a four month’s long exhibition of Hedda’s images and related materials, entitled “In Her View – the photographs of Hedda Morrison in China and Sarawak 1933-67. A number of Canberra Photographic Society members attended the opening by Mrs Kathryn Greiner. The invitation to the launch noted that Hedda Morrison had been described as “one of the finest photographers to work in Asia” and that her “extraordinary careers spanned three continents and more than half a century of social and political change”.

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Invitation to Power House exhibition launch

Interested readers can view further material about Hedda at http://www.powerhousemuseum.com and http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/harvard-yenching/collections/morrison/. There is also some material on the National Library of Australia Website (http://www.nla.gov.au). That library also houses numerous prints of Hedda’s Australian landscape images.

– Brian Rope

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