Mervyn Bishop

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Mervyn Bishop AGNSW 1 (Photograph: Mervyn Bishop)
Photograph: Mervyn BishopPrime Minister Gough Whitlam pours soil into the hands of traditional land owner Vincent Lingiari, Northern Territory 1975
Mervyn Bishop AGNSW 2 (Photograph: Mervyn Bishop)
Photograph: Mervyn BishopCousins, Ralph and Jim, Brewarrina 1966
Mervyn Bishop AGNSW 3 (Photograph: Mervyn Bishop)
Photograph: Mervyn BishopLife and death dash, 1971, Sydney Morning Herald

Drawing on its own collection, the Art Gallery of New South Wales presents well-known and rare work from the acclaimed Australian photographer

Mervyn Bishop has an extraordinary career that stretches back to the 1960s, when he scored a cadetship with the Sydney Morning Herald, winning the the News Photographer of the Year Award in 1971 for his cover photo 'Life and death dash'.

This exhibition of 26 prints from the AGNSW collection spans from portraits of locals in his hometown of Brewarrina (north-western NSW) to photojournalism for the Herald, and documentary photography undertaken in the 1970s as part of his job at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

It was here that Bishop created probably his best-known image: the colour photograph of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam pouring soil into the hands of Gurindji elder Vincent Lingiari, to mark the return of land at Wave Hill Station to its traditional owners.

As Bishop told a NITV documentary crew, the image was in fact staged by him, because the official ceremony took place in the shade of trees, where he couldn't get a good photo. He persuaded the Prime Minister to 'do another take' under the sun – and he snapped the moment before any of the other photographers could steal the shot.

Alongside the exhibited works is a slideshow of images from Bishop's 8000-strong archive, many of them never exhibited publically before this. 

Head along to Art After Hours on July 5 for Slide Night with Uncle Mervyn Bishop (6.30pm-7.15pm) and on July 12 to hear filmmaker Warwick Thornton (Samson and Delilah; We Don't Need a Map) talking about photography, filmmaking and Bishop's influence on recent generations of young Aboriginal photographers and filmmakers (6.30pm-7.15pm).



By: Dee Jefferson