Studio portrait of Captain James Francis (Frank) Hurley, Official AIF Photographer. Born at ...

Accession Number P04060.001
Collection type Photograph
Object type Black & white - Print other than silver gelatin
Maker Unknown
Place made Australia
Date made c 1917
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
First World War, 1914-1918

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


Studio portrait of Captain James Francis (Frank) Hurley, Official AIF Photographer. Born at Glebe, Sydney, in 1885, he became interested in photography as a young man and began his career with a Sydney postcard company at the age of 20. Hurley grew to regard photography as a medium that could be manipulated to achieve a desired effect and he began to follow the well established practice of making composite prints by combining two or more negatives to make an image. He was also a proponent of colour photography. Hurley was on one of his six trips to the Antarctic as part of the famous Shackleton expedition of 1914 to 1916, when the First World War broke out but in 1917, he became one of the AIF's official photographers with the honorary rank of captain. He embarked for Europe and some of his most famous images of the war were taken during the Passchendaele campaign in the second half of 1917. He ran considerable risks to get his shots, earning the name 'the mad photographer' from the troops. His methods, particularly his use of composites, led to arguments with the influential Captain Charles Edward Woodrow Bean and at one stage Hurley threatened to resign rather than give up the practice. A compromise was reached, but in late 1917, Hurley was sent to Palestine. He took many well known images of the Australian Light Horse and the Australian Flying Corps (AFC). He stayed just six weeks, then went to Cairo where he met Antoinette Leighton. They married on 11 April 1918 and Hurley returned to London to work on an exhibition of Australian war photography. After the First World War, Hurley made further trips to the Antarctic, and also to the Torres Strait Islands and New Guinea. He flew with the famous aviator, Captain Ross Macpherson Smith, returned to Europe on several occasions and visited the United States of America (USA). For much of the 1930s he worked in Sydney for Cinesound, but in 1940 Hurley resumed war photography with the AIF in the Middle East. His work was often overshadowed by that of younger men like Damien Parer and George Silk, who found Hurley's methods outdated. He remained in the Middle East until 1946. Hurley continued travelling and taking photographs after the Second World War, publishing several books of his work. He died in Sydney in 1962, aged 77.