Sunday, June 28, 2015

Groovy guru: the photography of Henry Talbot

When you think about some of Australia’s biggest (and best) bands of the 60s --The Easybeats, Masters Apprentices, Purple Hearts et al – it’s impossible not to be struck by what a great contribution European and British migrants have made to this country’s rock’n’roll tradition.

The same can be said of our photography, with European-born luminaries like Bruno Benini, Wolfgang Sievers, Mark Strizic and Helmut Newton all having a profound impact on the national photographic scene during the 50s and 60s.

Henry Talbot
Henry Talbot (formerly known as Heinz Tichauer) was another one. Fleeing his natal Germany in 1939 to escape the Nazis, he ended up in England — interned as a suspected German agent! Along with thousands of other German and Italian detainees (some of whom were prisoners of war; many more of whom were Jewish refugees like Talbot), he was deported to Australia in 1940 aboard the notorious hell-ship, Dunera.

After spending a couple of years interned in Hay, NSW, Talbot volunteered for the Australian Army, where he became friends with fellow German refugee Helmut Newton. 

Both Talbot and Newton ended up in Melbourne, having established independent post-war careers as photographers. They went into partnership in 1956, specialising in fashion and advertising: needless to say, the Newton & Talbot Studio became one of Melbourne’s most successful. 

Work it, baby!

Photo: Henry Talbot, 1967 (copyright, Lynette Anne Talbot)
Groovy OR WHAT?! Sure, Melbourne was hip in the 1960s (or this blog wouldn’t exist) but this photo, part of an ad for New York fashion label Brooks Brothers, takes it to a whole new level. That sports car looks like it’s been snatched from the set of some trippy late-60s Italian spy flick, while the slinky chick in the background could be Emma Peel’s — or Modesty Blaise’s — stunt double. The guy’s pretty sharp too.

Brooks Brothers were eager to cash in on the burgeoning Aussie youth market — and Henry Talbot was just the man to help them, with his unerring eye for the aesthetics and vibe of the times. The fabtastic stunner below is part of the same series. David Bailey, eat yer heart out!
Photo: Henry Talbot, 1967 (copyright, Lynette Anne Talbot)
In 1959, the Newton and Talbot studio scored a lucrative contract with the Australian Wool Board, and moved their studio into the basement of the Board’s office in Bourke Street. Concerned about the rising popularity of synthetic fabrics, the AWB was relying on Talbot and Newton to give it the cred it needed to remain competitive in a market that was becoming ever more youth-focused. 

This gorgeous promo photo, taken by Talbot for them in 1964, certainly delivers the goods.
Photo: Henry Talbot, 1964 (copyright, Lynette Anne Talbot)
When Newton departed for London on a self-declared mission to become the world’s greatest photographer some time around 1960, Talbot carried on alone, racking up an impressive folio of work for a who’s who of big-name clients such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Sportscraft, General Motors and Holeproof Hosiery (below). 
Photo: Henry Talbot, 1962 (copyright, Lynette Anne Talbot)
Dating from 1962, this glamorous tableau was shot on location at the long-since closed Walnut Tree restaurant in William Street, Melbourne. It’s especially noteworthy for the male model standing in the background – none other than Bruno Benini before he became a fashion photographer himself! (Anyone else think the dark-haired bloke at the front looks like Don Draper’s cosmic twin?)
Photo: Henry Talbot, 1965 (image found on
A vintage print of this candid and evocative photo appears to be for sale on the Josef Lebovic Gallery website, with the following accreditation:
Helmut Newton...and Henry Talbot. [Behind the Scenes at a Fashion Parade], c1965…Studio stamp reads "Helmut Newton & Henry Talbot Pty Ltd. Latrobe Court, 165 Latrobe St. [Melbourne]. [Ph] 662 2199, 662 2208. No. 506/35 Pos. 186." 
I’m guessing it’s a Talbot: by 1965, Newton was long gone, pursuing world domination on the other side of the world.

Here’s one final jaw-dropping example of Talbot’s work, taken for Fibremakers Australia. I mean, wowsers! Not only does this photo of Jackie Holme (Billy Thorpe's ex) grooving against the Parkes telescope tap into the decade’s obsession with all things space-age, it also captures its sense of freedom, fun and female fabulosity. They don’t make fashion photography like this any more…
Photo: Henry Talbot, 1964/5; National Gallery of Australia; NGA 89.1436
Given his eye-catching style, it’s no surprise to learn that Henry Talbot won a raft of prestigious awards during the 50s and 60s, the Australian Photo News’s Fashion Photographer of the Year (1958) and a Distinctive Merit Award from the Art Directors Club of Melbourne (1968) among them. 

He went on to Head of the Photography Department at the School of Art and Design at Preston, (later the Phillip Institute of Technology), from 1973 to 1985, after which he moved to Sydney with his family. He died of cancer in 1999, aged 79.

There is currently an exhibition dedicated to Henry Talbot's photography at the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square, which is well worth a visit. You can see the special e-book the gallery has prepared to mark the occasion here.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Everyday Melbourne in the 1960s

Big news in Batmania! I have an article about The Mystrys — a sensational but short-lived band previously profiled in this blog — in the forthcoming issue of legendary British magazine, Shindig! I’ll be ppublishing a couple more blog posts about the group to mark the occasion, based on interviews I did with a couple of the key players, but while they’re taking shape, I wanted to share this interesting photo-essay about ‘everyday life in Melbourne in the Swinging Sixties’ that I found on The Herald Sun website.

Naturally, the usual suspects are present — The Beatles, The Stones, Normie Rowe, Jean Shrimpton at the Melbourne Cup. But there’s also Graham Kennedy, a haunting shot of Ronald Ryan and two photos of the footballer that even folks who couldn’t give two flying whatevers about AFL can’t help liking... Ron Barassi. 
Don't knock the Ron: Barassi, Hawaiian style. Photo: Herald Sun
Whether he’s helping women in distress, pulling folks from flaming cars, bowling in Melbourne’s first ten-pin bowling alley, posing with Hawaiian beauties or (so I hear) kicking a footy, Ron Barassi is The Man.

New Australians

A couple of pics of European migrants arriving in Melbourne provide a stark contrast to the current immigration situation. As the exuberant scene below illustrates, approaching Aussie shores by boat 50 years ago was a joyous rather than fraught experience. And not a border control official in sight..
Migrants on the Flavia arriving at Station Pier in 1964. Photo: Herald Sun

Hitting the streets

Unsurprisingly, the street scenes included in the photo essay are wonderful, not least for the drool-worthy cars upping the aesthetic ante. Bourke, Flinders and Spencer Streets all look distinctly more glamorous than they do these days, but this one of Sydney Road is pick of the bunch. Did someone say Holden heaven?
Sydney Road (1964)  looking somewhat less chaotic than it does today. Photo: Herald Sun
Meanwhile, a selection of suburban shots evoke a palpable sense of nostalgia for simpler times. Check out this back-street billy cart race: can you imagine that happening in this era of helicopter parents and PlayStation? 

Full tilt! Billy cart kids in action, 1962. Photo: Herald Sun

Hello, ladies!

But pi├Ęce de resistance is this stylin’ line-up of likely lads taken from a spread in the newspaper’s fashion pages in 1967 (is that John Steed on the left?). While I’ve featured plenty of women’s fashion in this blog, local male fashion snaps from the decade are a rare treat. 
Five alive: men's fashion in Melbourne, 1967. Photo: Herald Sun
Factor in several photos of children, the Royal Show and the Queen, and one can't help thinking that the 1960s portrayed by The Herald Sun isn't so much swinging as downright sweet... 

All these pics and more can be seen here: Photo essay: Take a look back at everyday life in Melbourne in the Swinging Sixties