photo-web offers two writers on the work
of Geoffrey Powell:
to Geoffrey Powell ~ an
extract from the essay by Craig Hoehne
Geoffrey Powell, a filmmaker
and later radio personality, began his working life through
photography. After his death in 1989, Powell left behind
a large archive of material relating to his professional
lives. The photographic holdings were quite small, including
only a relative handful of prints, some poor quality
negatives, but most importantly scrapbooks which contained
clippings of his published photography. The National
Gallery of Australia (NGA) began collecting examples
prints from 1984. That institution's interest
in the photography of Geoffrey Powell fostered new found
awareness of his previously latent imagery.
is primarily remembered through the provocatively titled
Social Weapon'. Published late 1946, in the first
issue of Contemporary Photography, this places
Powell within the setting of Post-War Documentary Movement.
Powell is also recalled though participation in the Australian
Photography 1947 Competition. Through this forum,
a bronze plaque award was presented for 'Family
Group' (1945), an image that became Powell's
most published and hence best-known photograph. By the
time Powell's photography began to be recognised
through a wider mainstream audience he had however, completely
moved on from the medium.
Throughout his formative
years from 1936 to 1940, Powell became a somewhat notorious
personality about Sydney's photographic scene.
However, his early practice in the medium of photography
placed him at the forefront of the great generational
debate over pictorial salon photography, verses the ascendant
As was the fashion during the mid to late 1930s, the
young photographer experimented with surrealist imagery
During his early development,
Powell demonstrated promise, gaining a junior assistants
position with Max Dupain in 1937. It was a big break,
but one which Powell failed to capitalise on professionally.
Some months later Powell prematurely cut short his 'apprenticeship'
at Dupain's studio on a dubious promise of youthful-adventure
and a desire for greater personal notoriety. In this
he succeeded, but at the cost of his photographic career.
largely disappeared from the photographic scene but
maintained an small intermittent presence as an itinerant
photographer. In 1944 Powell eventually remerged as
a newspaper staffer with Sydney's
Shortly after, he obtained
a position with the Communist Party biweekly newspaper,
Tribune. The switch from the mainstream printed
media to the far left fringe saw Powell reinvigorated
as a photographer with a social conscience. Via this
leftwing milieu Powell was introduced to documentary
film-makers who soon become influential. Eventually this
association heralded Powell's
premature departure from professional stills photography.
Occasionally through the viewfinder:
a consideration of Geoffrey Powell’s photography (PDF)
Craig Hoehne 2006
A Biography on Geoffrey
Craig Hoehne 2006
All of the above remain copyright: © Craig
To contact Craig, please contact photo-web
see contact information at the bottom of this page.
The National Library acquired a number of posthumously
printed photographs that were taken by Powell in the
early years of his career, in addition to others from
the late 1940s, a period in which Powell was a vocal
and respected participant in Australia’s postwar
documentary photography movement. Powell’s story
is just beginning to be told through the work of researchers,
such as those at the Geoffrey Powell Archive, and through
the histories of those people and institutions that intersected
with Powell’s eventful life.
Click here for >>> Jennifer
Lovell's 2006 article on Geoffrey Powell published
by the National Library of Australia in their magazine
~ includes several images that are able to be enlarged.
the National Library of Australia ~ for a sample of his