Ron Morrison has been taking photographs for over 60 years. He started as a cadet photographer at the Newcastle Morning Herald in 1949 and left in 1959 to begin a press photographic agency. He later taught photography in the National Art School and was Head of Department in the School of Fine Arts at the NCAE (now University of Newcastle). Ron has a PhD (University of Wollongong), an MA in Graphic Design (University of Central England, UK) and a Dip.Art. He has exhibited widely and is the co-author of fifteen books.
Elizabeth Morrison has a BA DipEd (Dist) from the University of Newcastle and has taught Professional and Media Writing in the School of Communications at Charles Sturt University. In addition to writing many articles, Elizabeth has written the text for five photographic books and recently a book on commonly confused words, The Right Word (Exisle Publishing).
Organising the photographs and writing the text for this book has been a fascinating and enjoyable task. It has evoked so many memories of an extraordinary ten years — a decade that changed Australia so much in so many ways. Anyone who has ever sorted through hundreds of old photographs for inclusion in a publication will know firstly the delight of recovering lost memories, and secondly, the dilemma of what to include and what to omit and how to place the images on the page. It was important to not only cover the decade but also convey the excitement of the time, and this we hope we’ve achieved by juxtaposing the images taken from various subjects and areas across the nation.
For us the sixties represent an important time in our life: Ron’s extensive travels around Australia taking photos with his 35 millimetre Nikon Photomic, Mamiya 2¼ square inch (6 x 6 centimetre) twin lens reflex, and 4 x 5 Speed Graphic cameras (images that form the basis of this book); and our leaving on an overseas working holiday in the early sixties. It was in 1964 on the cruise liner Fairsky that we encountered the later world-renowned musical group The Seekers, travelling on the same cruise liner to England and eventual international stardom.
In the mid 1960s Ron and Alan Farrelly, a journalist and writer with whom Ron had collaborated on five earlier books, secured the backing of Adelaide publishers to take on the important task of writing and photographing the dramatic changes occurring in the new frontiers of Australia. They received considerable support from business, industry and politicians around Australia — Ansett-ANA in particular gave free air transport ‘subject to load’. This travel support on one occasion led to a comical situation with Ron and Alan mistakenly being allocated ‘must ride’ tickets by a Western Australian subsidiary, MacRobertson Miller Airline, who apparently thought they were Ansett officials from the east coast possibly checking on the organisation! As a consequence they were given special treatment by the airline during their entire Western Australian visit.
They were fortunate to be able to interview Sir Ian McKellen, Managing Director of the BHP Company; Sir Charles Court, Minister for the North West and Industrial Development, Western Australia; Sir Philip Baxter, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission; fashion designer Prue Acton; Sir Bede Callaghan, Managing Director of the Commonwealth Bank; architect Harry Seidler; the Reverend Ted Noffs from the Wayside Chapel; and many others.
During their travels Ron and Alan flew in many different types of aircraft including helicopters; push-pull aircraft flown by ‘bush pilots’ from Cairns to Weipa, sitting among the fresh vegetables; as well as Fokker Friendships, Lockheed Electra prop-jets and the DC-9 and 727 jets. A flight from Port Hedland through the fog following the single rail track to Newman was one of the most memorable!
In 1970 Ron placed his notes of interviews as well as black-and-white gelatin silver prints, negatives and Ektachrome transparencies of this trip in a suitcase. At the same time he stored, in boxes, photos taken for earlier books and images from the time of our press photography agency in the sixties. All of these were carefully placed on a platform in the rafters of our garage. There the suitcase and boxes of prints, negatives and slides gathered dust. They were not lost — we knew they were there, somewhere! However, it took a house move in 2009, almost 30 years later, to bring them to light. They were still in excellent condition and when we examined them, with some delight we realised they formed a kaleidoscopic image of the sixties.
We hope these glimpses, together with our captions, will allow older Australians to experience again this exciting time of change while at the same time introducing younger Australians to the decade often referred to as the ‘Swinging Sixties’. Enjoy this trip down memory lane!
Elizabeth and Ron Morrison