Thesis by Philip Bentley B.A. (hons), MA
A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Arts in Public History at Monash University February, 1996.
Group M was an association of principally amateur photographers active in Melbourne from 1959 until the late 1960s. Imbued with a humanist intent, current in the post-war period, they sought to use their work to help people better understand the world and each other. To achieve this goal they worked predominantly in a documentary style, seeking to render their subjects naturally, and avoid the staged compositions and painterly effects of the earlier ‘pictorialist’ style, still favoured by the salons of the day.
This thesis tells the story of Group M: its members, activities, philosophies and exhibitions. It also presents the tale of the social network out of which it grew, the unusually entitled Moggs Creek Clickers. Whilst photography is the work’s primary concern it also encompasses wider notions relevant to post-war society in general and that in Melbourne in particular.
(The following can be linked to from the menu at the top of each page)
Main Page (this page): Summary, Contents, List of Illustrations, Note on Citations, Acknowledgments, Errata March 2017
Chapter One: Cameras with a Purpose
Chapter Two: “Moggs Creek Forever”
Chapter Three: Crusaders in the Dark
Chapter Four: The Responsibility of Perception
Appendix (PDF) Australian Contributors to Photovision
List of Illustrations
Illustrations Page - click here.
NB. Photographs are only italicised where the photographer has given it a specific title, as opposed to a description.
Figures 1 & 2 Moggs Creek Clickers’ expedition to Mt Feathertop in 1962.
Figure 3 John Crook at the closure of the Bolangum Inn, near St. Arnaud, 1967.
Figure 4 The unveiling of the statue of Sir Samuel Moggs at the second Clicker convention, February 1957.
Figure 5 Photovision 59 at Pink Alley.
Figure 6 Albert Brown, self portrait in bowler hat, 1965.
Figure 7 George Bell, self portrait in top hat, 1960s.
Figure 8 Casualty: Albert Brown, Anzac Day early 1960s.
Figure 9 Mr Westbrook, Richmond: Albert Brown, mid-1960s.
Figure 10 Pain: George Bell, early 1960s.
Figure 11 Composition with hands: George Bell, early 1960s.
Figure 12 Untitled: John Crook, late 1950s.
Figure 13 Designing Urban Woman: Max Forbes and John Bolton, 1963.
Figure 14 Designing Urban Woman: Eric Smith and Roy McDonald, 1963.
Figures 15 & 16 Two studies of life in Melbourne streets by Roy McDonald, from the early 1960s.
Figures 17 & 18 Two studies of Parisian life by Harry Youlden, early 1960s.
Figure 19 The Instant Portrait Photographer (Perth, 1956): Richard Woldendorp.
Figure 20 Street Scene (Perth, 1959): Richard Woldendorp.
Figure 21 Installation shot of Photovision 60.
Figure 22 Installation shot of Photovision 61.
Figures 23 & 24 Installation shots of Photovision 62.
Figures 25 & 26 Photographs from Urban Woman by Albert Brown, early 1960s.
Figures 27 & 28 Photographs from Urban Woman by George Bell, early 1960s.
Figures 29 & 30 Photographs from Urban Woman by Roy McDonald, early 1960s.
Figure 31 Photograph from Urban Woman by Lance Nelson: Woman in hat at Dawn Service (Brisbane, 1961).
Figure 32 Photograph from Urban Woman by Lance Nelson: Woman with child on shoulder (Sydney, 1961).
Figure 33 Young women viewing Urban Woman.
Figure 34 Old woman viewing Urban Woman.
Figures 35-41 Installation shots of Urban Woman.
Figure 42 Photograph from A Time To Love by Albert Brown: Interior, Lake Tyers: early 1960s.
Figure 43 Photograph from A Time To Love by Albert Brown: Mrs Edwards and child, Lake Tyers, early 1960s.
Figure 44 Photograph from A Time To Love by Albert Brown: Mrs Effie Moburn, Lake Tyers, early 1960s.
Figure 45 Photograph from A Time To Love by Albert Brown: Handout, Lake Tyers, early 1960s.
Figure 46 Photograph from A Time To Love by George Bell: bushfire damage and winding road, early 1960s.
Figure 47 Photograph from A Time To Love by George Bell: detail of bushfire damage, early 1960s.
Figure 48 Photograph from A Time To Love, by George Bell: animal bones, early 1960s.
Figure 49 Photograph from A Time To Love by George Bell: the remains of Windy Gale’s house early 1960s.
Figures 50-52 Photographs of geriatrics from A Time To Love by John Crook, early 1960s.
Figures 53-56 Photographs of mental institution inmates from A Time To Love by Roy McDonald, early 1960s.
Figure 57 Child’s hand on mossy rock by George Bell, early 1960s.
Figure 58 Drought cracked earth by George Bell, 1960s.
NOTE ON CITATIONS
Taped interviews are cited at the first mention in full then receive an abbreviation. This is followed by a group of numerals representing the tape side and counter number. It should be noted that the latter have been recorded during a normal speed playback and said numbers may not rectify if the fast-forward facility is used.
For their support, information or advice I wish to thank the following:
- at Monash my supervisor David Dunstan, Jan Penney, John Rickard, Rosemary Johnston and my Public History colleagues, in particular Janette Bomford and Deborah Breen;
- at RMIT Robin Williams and John Storey;
- at Scienceworks Euan McGillvray;
- at the Museum of Victoria Sue Hodges;
- at the National Gallery of Victoria Isobel Crombie;
- also Margaret Beaumont, Peter Davis, Joyce Evans, David Moore, Wolfgang Sievers and Mark Strizic.
I also wish to thank the following former members of the Moggs Creek Clickers and/or Group M. Although this project was at their behest I was gratified by their willingness to accommodate my questions and enquiries.
George Bell, John Bolton, Ron Friedman, Celine Hampson, John Johnson, Ray Lee, Don McDonald, Roy McDonald, Fred Mosse, Lance Nelson, Cliff Restarick, Richard Woldendorp, Harry Youlden and especially Albert Brown for liason and John Crook for the trip to Moggs Creek.
Subsequent to the original thesis being submitted a number of clarifications and corrections were passed on to me. Aware of preserving the work’s original integrity, but at the same time mindful of not leading readers astray, I have chosen to deal with these issues in two ways. Small corrections of fact have been made in the work itself, but are noted below. Longer clarifications, mainly from John Crook, are set out following these.
Corrections made in the body of the work (pages refer to the original hard copy version):
P 9 Photo- Secession originally read Succession.
P 24 John Johnson was originally called a chemist rather than a physicist.
P 33 Similarly, Fred Mosse was also originally referred to as a chemist rather than an engineering draughtsman.
P 44 Fn 4 John Willett, the foundation chair of Business Management at Melbourne University was called an anthropologist from Monash.
P 50 Edward Steichen was originally credited with the overall directorship of MOMA rather being the Director of Photography.
Fig 1 The statue was referred to as being made of cast iron when it was actually cast in some alloy such as bronze.
Steve Seward originally called Seaward.
Fig 14 Smith and McDonald were said to be watching a photographer not cameraman.
Figs 17 & 18 were said to have been shot in the early 60s when it is more likely they were taken in the late 50s.
Figs 34, 37, 38-41 read instillation rather than installation.
P 24 Fn 1 John Crook concurs on the matter of the derivation of the name Moggs.
At least two old timers told me (during out first days of building) that a grazier from near St Arnaud called Moggs used to bring his cattle overland to get better pasture at Bellbird Creek. One of these people (Dr Rogers) urged me to refer to the area as Moggs Creek as the term Bellbird Creek was so common and conveyed no idea of heritage. I liked Moggs because I had never heard of such a surname and thought it gave the area a somewhat zany and unique character. [Personal Communication 8/4/96]
P 26 For John Crook the motto ‘the dark is light enough’ had a deeper, more mystical meaning than simply the overcoming of adversity.
The butterflies had to overcome not ordinary darkness (lack of light), but profound darkness. They do not just arrive battered and worn but in perfect freshness; or in my interpretation they have gained something by the experience. What I mean by ‘the dark is light enough’ is that human beings have to work in uncertainty together and as I see it, it is this that makes them worthy of close or intimate association with other people. This is (if you like) what the unknown creative process demands. [Personal Communication 8/4/96]
P 46 John Crook wishes to emphasise the role of Roy McDonald, Tony Taylor and Eric Smith in the group. McDonald was “as good if not [a] better photographer than the rest of us” whose role was “highly important” in the group. Taylor “was a major contributor socially and technically . It was [he] two found out how to mount large prints. He and his wife [Celine Hampson] were highly articulate and one could discuss the aims and activities of philosophy and modern photography at length with them”. Smith was “probably the best technical photographer associated with the group. He played as major role in publicising our work and our aims by producing several small but high quality exhibitions… which were masterpieces of available light photography”. [Personal Communication 8/4/96]
P 50 John Crook contends that the removal of overseas entrants to Photovision had more to do with its “increasingly costly and onerous task”, than the growing quality of local entrants. Words to the latter effect in the Photovision 63 catalogue were more propaganda than anything. [Personal Communication 8/4/96]
P 65 With regards to the group’s shortcomings John Crook emphasises the practical problems the group faced in putting on their exhibitions. The commitment to large prints caused a succession of problems with regards to cost and their production under makeshift conditions. Publicity had to be largely ignored due to lack of time and money. In Crook’s view “we never had the time and resources to become more than the Still Clickers in Melbourne”. Moreover, for most of the group “who had challenging and reasonably enjoyable jobs in science and teaching, the ultimate success was to do what seemed right, not that which made us famous”. [Personal Communication 8/4/96]
Fig 1 John Crook disputes whether there was an irreligious aspect to the erection of the statue of Dame Minnie Moggs. [Personal Communication 8/4/96]