Two boys in a rowboat

Mervyn Bishop

Mervyn Bishop: Australian Photojournalist NFSA exhibition

Australian Photojournalist

About the exhibition

The 2021 exhibition Mervyn Bishop: Australian Photojournalist celebrated the photographer behind Australia's iconic moments. 

The exhibition was drawn from the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) collection, the artist’s private archive, and enriched by sound and moving image from the NFSA.

Spanning images from the past 60 years, Mervyn Bishop: Australian Photojournalist ran at the NFSA from 5 March to 12 August 2021.

You can view images from the exhibition on the AGNSW website and learn more about Mervyn Bishop below.

An Art Gallery of New South Wales touring exhibition, presented in collaboration with the NFSA.

About Mervyn Bishop

Mervyn Bishop was born in 1945 in the New South Wales country town of Brewarrina. His love for photography stems from a chance encounter with its development process, when a schoolfriend’s father showed him how an image could appear, as if by magic, on a sheet of paper in a home darkroom.

You can watch short interviews with Mervyn, as well as curators Coby Edgar (AGNSW) and Tara Marynowsky (NFSA), in the following playlist:

A YouTube playlist for the Mervyn Bishop: Australian Photojournalist exhibition (2021), including interviews with Mervyn Bishop and curators Tara Marynowsky (NFSA) and Coby Edgar (AGNSW).

In 1963 Mervyn moved to Sydney and began his 4-year career as a cadet photographer with The Sydney Morning Herald:

Seven male photography cadets dressed in collared shirts and ties photograph a female model in 1967

Photography cadets with model, Sydney Morning Herald 1967 © Mervyn Bishop. Art Gallery of New South Wales: 173.1991
Ink jet print, digital exhibition copy of gelatin silver photograph. Original photograph acquired through Hallmark Cards Australian Photography Collection Fund 1991

In this excerpt from Art + Soul Episode 3: Bitter and Sweet, Mervyn talks to Hetti Perkins about his most famous photograph – Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically pouring sand into the hand of traditional landowner Vincent Lingiari in 1975:

Mervyn Bishop interviewed in Art + Soul Episode 3: Bitter and Sweet, 2009. Courtesy: Hibiscus Films. NFSA: 1484434

Influential Australians

The exhibition also featured images from Mervyn’s time as staff photographer for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (from 1974) and his photographs of influential Australian figures like Lowitja O’Donoghue, Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker), Lionel Rose and Jimmy Little.

Mervyn Bishop exhibition at the NFSA, featuring images and footage of boxer Lionel Rose. Photographer: Grace Costa.

You can also read the following audio transcripts that appeared in the exhibition:

Time to Listen (c1970) is a transcript of an audio interview with political activist and writer Oodgeroo Noonuccal (formerly Kath Walker) in which she discusses race issues in Australia and her role as a poet.

In The Dawn Is at Hand (1989), Oodgeroo Noonuccal speaks of her early childhood on Stradbroke Island, describes how her interest in nature led her to creative writing and then recites several of her poems including ‘Corroboree’, ‘Ballad of the Totems’, ‘Dawn Wail For the Dead’ and ‘We Are Going’.

Past exhibition events and trailer

The following 2021 events and screenings complemented the exhibition:

  • Floor talk with Mervyn Bishop – 5 March 
  • Intimate Icons: Celebrating Mervyn Bishop (workshop) – 29 April to 26 June
  • Slide night with Uncle Mervyn Bishop – 28 May
  • Warwick Thornton retrospective screenings: Samson and Delilah + short film Tnorala – 18 June, Sweet Country + short film Black Chook – 19 June

View a trailer for the exhibition:

Mervyn Bishop: The Exhibition trailer, 2021.

Top image:

Cousins, Ralph and Jim, Brewarrina 1966 © Mervyn Bishop

Gelatin silver photograph, 30 x 40 cm

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Purchased under the terms of the Florence Turner Blake Bequest 2008

Photo: AGNSW