By Tony Ellwood
Director, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The National Gallery of Victoria is fortunate to hold an extensive archive of works from the studio of Melbourne photographer Henry Talbot. Presented to the Gallery in 1983, the collection spans the period 1958 to 1972 and comprises approximately 35,000 images, the majority of which are in negative form. From this rich source the NGV team, led by Susan van Wyk, Senior Curator of Photography, was able to delve into a period and genre of photography that is often under-represented in histories of Australian photography.
Henry Talbot's career in photography spanned five decades. In common with a number of other eminent practitioners in the mid-twentieth century he was an émigré artist who brought an invigorating internationalism to Australian photography. In 1956, Talbot went into partnership with Helmet Newton in a photographic studio specialising in fashion photography. The studio was a great success, securing major clients including Sportscraft, the Australian Wool Board and the most sophisticated fashion magazine at that time, Vogue Australia. His time with Newton established Talbot's place as a dynamic force in Australian fashion photography and from the 1960s until he closed his photography studio in 1973 Henry Talbot was a leading figure in the Australian fashion world. His work was known for its fresh modern look linking contemporary fashion and popular culture, which exemplified the emerging youth culture of these exuberant times. He was renowned for moving out of the studio and working on location variously 'transforming' scenes around the city so that they looked like international locations, as well as celebrating iconic Melbourne vistas such as the banks of the Yarra River. I have no doubt visitors to the exhibition will be delighted by these images of the city just outside our doors.
I thank our colleagues at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney, in particular Anne-Marie Van de Ven and Paul Wilson, who both generously supported this exhibition with access to their collections and contribution to this ebook.
In recent years the NGV's commitment to the collections of Photography, and Fashion and Textiles has resulted in significant research and popular, groundbreaking exhibitions. Henry Talbot: 1960s Fashion Photographer is the latest chapter in our engagement with these two dynamic areas of creative practice.