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On Our Collection

Robert McFarlane

Crowd lining the street on Anzac Day at Martin Place, Sydney, 1964

Gael Newton April 2024

Moving house from Canberra to Melbourne late 2023 has meant that it is only recently that our pictures (mostly photographs) have been installed. That done the new place is now ‘home’.

I am especially pleased that two Robert’s McFarlane’s prints including his 1964 crowd watching the ANZAC parade in Martin Place, Sydney are back on the bedroom wall where I see them - at the going down of the sun and in the morning - as they were in our former home.

Robert’s picture is overlaid with sadness as my dear friend died in his hometown of Adelaide on 19 July 2023.

From the late 1960s Robert had particular interest in veterans, Anzac Day marches and dawn services the latter of which he made efforts to attend at various locations even though not naturally an early riser.

I bought this print from Josef Lebovic Gallery many years ago so it was probably printed by Roger Scott and will last as long as I need it. As a female curator of photography and briefly a photographer at art school in the 1970s, how could I not identify with the little girl and her Box Brownie.

I was entranced by her serious effort on tip toe to take a picture perhaps of a relative who was marching? She is very smartly dressed in tartan pleated skirt, double breasted jacket with matching trim, knitted wool stockings, and fancy bows on her heeled shoes. Her outfit, pony tail and big fringe, are the same type as I wore at that age.

As a baby boomer, ANZAC marches were a big deal in the 1960s. Most of us watched the parades on the telly. The men in the family went to the dawn service and then the pub but not always to the march.

While the little girl is the pivot of the picture, it is the watchers who are on parade for us viewers. Only the fashionable suited woman with cat’s eye glasses seems to have spotted the photographer and the veteran on the far right too with a laugh.

The crowd are all watching something but not in the same direction and are engaged in different ways. Some crane to see approaching marchers, others gaze around. The group include veterans, one to the left neatly dressed in a woollen weave jacket, pressed pants, jumper and hat is lost in thought another not so trim younger man with RSL badge leans heavily on the barricade while an older man on crutches on the right wears his best dark suit.

The three women are smartly dressed for town with fashionable glasses. A few casually dressed young men seem not quite sure wonder how to compose themselves. To which adult does the little girl belong the women or a white-haired gent behind her leaning towards her? And did she capture the photographer in her frame?

Robert’s archive is now in the National Library so more ANZAC pictures than the few seen online may be posted online in future.


An update on the above article:

Canberra colleagues have identified that the girl in the centre of the photograph is holding a Kodak Brownie Starlet, 'Made in Australia'. Now if only we knew who she was and does she have a photo of Robert taking her photograph?



More about Robert McFarlane


more of Gael Newton's Essays and Articles


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