Celebrating a Pioneer of Australian Photojournalism

Celebrating IWD  —  8th March 2018

Adelie Hurley (1919–2010) The first Australian female commercial photojournalist

Adelie, daughter of Frank Hurley, was employed in the late 1930s to the 1960s as a working photo-journalist for a range of publications including the Fairfax newspapers, and magazines such as PIX.

Below is an obituary written by her niece in 2010 plus a selection of images taken from various sources.

There is to be a small display honouring Adelie Hurley within the forthcoming exhibition on Frank Hurley at the Manly Museum & Gallery.

Frank Hurley: Photographer & Gardener        6 Apr — 14 Oct 2018

This exhibition casts new light on the life and work of Frank Hurley (1885–1962), revealing his early Sydney photographs, tourist postcards and later studies of Australian wildflowers. Best known for his war and Antarctic expedition photography, Hurley spent 22 years living on Collaroy Plateau from where he travelled Australia to produce books, photographs and postcards. Images are drawn from the National Library of Australia, private collections and family archive.

We are going to upload more about the background to the exhibition next week.. watch this space



Sydney Morning Herald — 19 March 2010
Pioneer in female photojournalism — Adelie Hurley 1919–2010

Many assumed Adelie ”Front Page” Hurley, the nation’s’ first female press photographer and daughter of Antarctic and World War I and II photographer Frank Hurley, simply followed in her father’s footsteps. But that was not quite the case. With determination, talent and initiative she forged her own career and, in doing so, paved the way for female photojournalists in Australia.

From as young as eight, Adelie, identical twin Toni, siblings Frank jnr and Yvonne helped their father develop prints, including those of Antarctica.

Hovering outside the darkroom, a converted laundry, their jobs included holding a timer and calling out ”30 seconds, dad!” as his prints developed.

Hurley won the first of her many photography awards when she was 11, taken with a Box Brownie and developed in the bathroom using an old bellows enlarger.

Later in life she worked on many projects with her father but said her enthusiasm and interest developed independently. ”We seldom saw our dad. He was always away or photographing wars. It was not the pictures at home that stirred my interest but rather my sister’s boyfriend’s camera.”

Alex Stewart, Toni’s boyfriend and a press photographer, lent her his Graflex camera when she was 17. She was hooked from the first glance.

Hurley studied commercial art for 18 months at Sydney Technical College, eventually deeming it ”too narrow and too conforming”.

She then modelled as a magazine cover girl and became a pin-up girl for troops during World War II.

But she quickly realised life was more stimulating behind the camera than in front of it. She later worked on almost every paper in Sydney.

Her first position was with Pix where she took countless photographs of varied subjects from multiple angles and positions, experimenting and leading the way with extension flash for different lighting effects.

Throughout her career, from 1938 to the 1960s, Hurley’s creativity for finding interesting angles and a willingness to experiment earned her the name ”Front Page Hurley”.

While taking thousands of pictures, she had many firsts — first female press photographer, sole female photographer for Pix, AM and The Australian Women’s Weekly, first woman allowed into Arnhem Land to photograph sacred Aboriginal sites (for AWW). And she did it all wearing perfectly applied, signature red lipstick.

So began a series of front-page scoops. She shot an opium den raid, climbed a ladder in high heels after the vice squad, hid behind a garden while photographing bomb defusers during the submarine attack on Sydney Harbour, and photographed food queues in the Soviet Union in 1962 when such acts could have one arrested.

But her tenacity is best demonstrated during the perfume incident. She stowed away on a military convoy headed for Darwin at the outbreak of World War II. Most truck drivers denied her passage but one agreed. She was detected by her perfume, the soldiers were sent home and she was dumped at Banka Banka station, 100 kilometres north of Tennant Creek, which was a supply camp during the war.

Hurley hitchhiked to Darwin and snuck into army camps disguised as a soldier, resulting in more front-page bylines, this time for The Daily Telegraph.

In 1983 she moved with her widowed twin Toni to Coffs Harbour, where they became Las Presidentas of the Banana Republic, promoting the town as a tourist destination.

They sewed many of their own colourful and impeccable outfits, including bright yellow robes which they teamed with banana earrings for their volunteer Republic role.

In 1999 Hurley visited Antarctica following the route taken by her father during Shackleton’s Endurance expedition.

Adelie and Toni celebrated their 90th birthday last year with a party in Coffs Harbour. The twins had distinct personalities but jointly were a vivacious force to be reckoned with. Living opposite each other for 27 years and regularly finishing each other’s sentences, they attended their party wearing, as they almost always did, matching hand-sewn outfits.

Sidney Adelie Hurley was born in 1919 to Frank Hurley and Antoinette Leighton, the third of four children, including Yvonne and Frank jnr. She was referred to as Adelie or simply Ads.

Adelie Hurley married three times but had no children.

She is survived by Toni and 10 nieces and nephews.

Flip Byrnes (Granddaughter of Frank Hurley)





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