Terry Lane     March 4, 2015

A new book by Kathleen Whelan celebrates more than 100 years of photography in the pages of The Age newspaper.

Kathleen Whelan has compiled Photography of The Age.

Photographers come in different varieties. There are specialists in advertising, formal portraiture, art, photo essays, landscape, animals and so on. We see the work of all of them from time to time, whereas every day we see the photographic art and reporting of newspaper photographers. As photographers ourselves, we should pay newspaper photographers the respect they deserve. They are brilliant specialists.

Photographer, teacher and writer Kathleen Whelan pays tribute to the men and women with cameras who every day add meaning to the bald newspaper narrative with their pictures. Her book, Photography of The Age: Newspaper Photography in Australia from Glass Plate Negatives to Digital, is a history of photography in this newspaper, a description of the process of assignment and picture selection and biographies of many of the paper's outstanding photographers. It is a lesson in the art and process of photojournalism.

The first photograph in The Age was of a collision by Ballarat and Bendigo trains at Sunshine in April 1908. A new dimension was added to the newspaper of record.

The first photographer employed by The Age was Englishman Hugh Bull, who turned up at the paper claiming that he'd had plenty of experience – apparently an exaggeration – and he owned a camera. He started work in 1926 and was still there 31 years later. In that time he became the first Age photographer to go to Japan after World War II, when  he photographed the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Changing camera technology over the years brought changes in style. Working with a Speed Graphic camera and 12 plates imposed obvious restrictions. If you only have 12 exposures and are expected to come back with at least one useable picture, you need to be careful, and you don't know what you have captured until the film has been developed. With a digital single-lens reflex, unlimited image storage and instantaneous review and transmission from the event site to the picture editor's computer, the photographers can be more adventurous and experimental, even though the one-good-picture imperative remains.

Clive McKinnon, who worked at The Age for 23 years, gives this tip to his colleagues: "When it's all happening, get your first shot straightaway and then think of your ideas and observations. Take another and when you are feeling that you have a reasonable pic, take more, but make sure every shot is as good as your last and improve all your next pics."

Kathleen Whelan has created a truly brilliant tribute to some great photographers.

March 4, 2015

Photo by - Mathew Smithwick    Fairfax Media
Photo by - Mathew Smithwick Fairfax Media

 Are newspapers dead?

This second book on Photography of The Age by Kathleen Whelan looks at the impact of the digital age on professional photographers and again highlights the essential role they play in bringing to the people what is important; socially, politically and historically.

The Photography of The Age also provides historical context of some of the most famous images published, why they are chosen as well as technical information from the photographers themselves on how they produced such memorable images.