Jeff Carter (photographer)

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Jeff Carter
Born(1928-08-05)5 August 1928
Died25 October 2010(2010-10-25) (aged 82)
Foxground, New South Wales, Australia
Known for Photojournalism
Notable work
Tobacco Road, Ovens Valley, 1955–1956
Spouse(s)1947 Frances Oscar, 1952 Mary Thompson-Read-Young

Jeff Carter (5 August 1928 – 25 October 2010) was an Australian photographer, filmmaker and author. His work was widely published and contributed iconic representation of the working population of the Australian bush as self-sufficient rugged and laconic.


Early life

Carter was born to Percy and Doris Carter in August 1928 in Melbourne. Jeff's parents were successful merchants and Jeff attended Melbourne Boys High School. By the time he matriculated in 1946, his three major passions were clear – photography, writing and travel. He began taking photographs while still at high school. His first photos were taken with a Kodak Box Brownie, given to him as a 13th birthday present. [1]

Melbourne City in Victoria, Australia

Melbourne is the capital and most populous city of the Australian state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Its name refers to an urban agglomeration of 2,080 km2 (800 sq mi), comprising a metropolitan area with 31 municipalities, and is also the common name for its city centre. The city occupies much of the coastline of Port Phillip bay and spreads into the hinterlands towards the Dandenong and Macedon ranges, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. It has a population of 5 million, and its inhabitants are referred to as "Melburnians".

Brownie (camera)

The Brownie was a long-running popular series of simple and inexpensive cameras made by Eastman Kodak. Introduced in 1900, it introduced the snapshot to the masses. It was a basic cardboard box camera with a simple meniscus lens that took 2 1/4-inch square pictures on 117 roll film. It was conceived and marketed for sales of Kodak roll films. Because of its simple controls and initial price of $1 along with the low price of Kodak roll film and processing, The Brownie camera surpassed its marketing goal.


In 1946, Carter set off to travel around Australia with his camera and typewriter and made a living selling his stories and photographs to a wide range of Australian and international newspapers and magazines including Paris Match , People , Pix , Walkabout and The Australian Women's Weekly . He was later also commissioned by National Geographic. [2] The curator of the 2011 retrospective of Carter's work, Sandra Byron, said his photographs were "deceptively simple because they were extremely well crafted, wonderful images", and that he was an important figure in Australian documentary photography. [3]

<i>Paris Match</i> French newspaper (1949–)

Paris Match is a French-language weekly news magazine. It covers major national and international news along with celebrity lifestyle features.

<i>People</i> (Australian magazine) weekly Australian lads mag

People is a fortnightly Australian lad's mag owned by Bauer Media Group.

<i>Pix</i> (magazine)

Pix was an Australian pictorial magazine, issued weekly from 1938 to 1972 and published by Associated Newspapers Limited in Sydney, Australia.

From 1949–54, Carter was editor of Outdoors and Fishing magazine; he then resigned to travel in rural and outback Australia as a freelance photo-journalist. He wrote and illustrated 17 books based on his experiences. [4] His most widely held book outside Australia is People of the Inland. [Adelaide]: Rigby, 1966. OCLC 901968. Carter's other books include: The Life and Land of Central Australia (1967); Outback in Focus (1968); Stout Hearts and Leathery Hands (1968); Surf Beaches of Australia's East Coast (1968); Four-Wheel Drive Swagman (1969); Wild Country (1974); Jeff Carter's Great Book Of The Australian Outdoors (1976); All Things Wild (1977); and Jeff Carter's Guided Tours Of The Outback (1979).

At the time of his death in 2010 he was in the final stages of compiling a book of photographic works produced in collaboration with his granddaughter. Carter also produced a three-volume series of semi-autobiographical novels, Snowmaidens, which remained unpublished at the time of his death.

Carter is quoted as saying that he was influenced by writers such as Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck and Edgar Snow. [1]

Upton Sinclair 20th-century American novelist, writer, journalist, political activist

Upton Beall Sinclair Jr. was an American writer who wrote nearly 100 books and other works in several genres. Sinclair's work was well known and popular in the first half of the 20th century, and he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1943.

John Steinbeck American writer

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. was an American author. He won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception." He has been called "a giant of American letters," and many of his works are considered classics of Western literature.

Edgar Snow American journalist

Edgar Parks Snow was an American journalist known for his books and articles on Communism in China and the Chinese Communist revolution. He was the first western journalist to give a full account of the history of the Chinese Communist Party following the Long March, and he was also the first western journalist to interview many of its leaders, including Mao Zedong. He is best known for his book, Red Star Over China (1937), an account of the Chinese Communist movement from its foundation until the late 1930s.


From 1972–74, Jeff Carter directed and filmed [5] the television series Wild Country for the Seven Network. The series was edited by Roger Whittaker and Jeff's daughter Karen, and was screened internationally, including at the annual television festival MIP in Cannes, France. An episode won awards for Best Documentary, Best Director and Best Editing at the 1974 Australian Film Institute Awards, and another episode won several awards at the annual television festival MIP in Cannes, France.

Seven Network Australian broadcast television network

The Seven Network is a major Australian commercial free-to-air television network. It is owned by Seven West Media Limited, and is one of five main free-to-air television networks in Australia. Channel Seven's head office is in Sydney.

From 1981–85, he was head teacher of photography at the Wollongong campus of the National Art School.

Wollongong City in New South Wales, Australia

Wollongong, informally referred to as "The Gong", is a seaside city located in the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia. Wollongong lies on the narrow coastal strip between the Illawarra Escarpment and the Pacific Ocean, 68 kilometres (51 miles) south of central Sydney. Wollongong had an estimated urban population of 302,739 at June 2018, making it the third-largest city in New South Wales after Sydney and Newcastle, and the tenth-largest city in Australia. The city's current Lord Mayor is Gordon Bradbery AM who was elected in 2018.

Collections and exhibitions

His photographs are in the collections of the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Victoria, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Library of Australia (over 450 photographs), the Art Gallery of South Australia, the National Museum of Australia, and the Powerhouse Museum. They have been exhibited at the National Library of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia, the National Museum of Australia, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Art Gallery of South Australia and overseas galleries in Osaka, Japan, Lisbon, Portugal, New York and Paris.

The Monash Gallery of Art in Melbourne, held a major retrospective exhibition of his images in May–June 2003, which was seen by a record number of over 9,000 visitors. Part of this exhibition was then shown at the Christine Abrahams Gallery, and the National Trust Gallery in Melbourne.

Carter received the Australia Council's Visual Arts/Craft Board 2004 Emeritus award. Senator Rod Kemp, then Minister for the Arts and Sport, commented:

The annual Visual Arts/Craft Emeritus Award and Medal honour the achievements of artists and advocates who have made outstanding and lifelong contributions to the arts in Australia. The career of itinerant, self-taught photographer Jeff Carter spans half a century. It has been estimated that he has produced some 55,000 negatives since he took to the road in 1946 as a young man inspired by his heroes Steinbeck and Hemingway. Armed with a typewriter and a 1A folding Kodak camera, he set about on a journey across the country that would see him document the people, places and life of a changing Australia. In doing so, he has produced one of this country's most remarkable and historically significant photographic archives. As his self-titled calling as photographer to the 'poor and unknown' suggests, Carter is a humanist whose early articles and iconic black and white images, like Tobacco Road and The Drover's Wife, exposed an appreciation of the difficulties Australians outside major cities faced everyday.

The National Library compendium of its image collection [Helen Ennis (2004),Intersections: Photography, History and the National Library of Australia, National Library of Australia, Canberra] uses Carter's iconic 1955 image Tobacco Road [6] for its cover illustration. A collection of his black and white studies was published as Jeff Carter: Retrospective Sydney: New Holland, 2005, ISBN   978-1-74110-213-0

Filmmaker Catherine Hunter joined Carter on a road trip in June 2010 to western New South Wales, revisiting bush characters he had first photographed back in the 1950s. The result was a half-hour documentary, Inland Heart: The Photography of Jeff Carter. [7] [8]


As a photographer, Carter concentrated on the unglamorous and unprivileged aspects of Australia, with a focus on the working lives and conditions of ordinary Australians. [9] During his early travels, his experiences as an itinerant bush worker, fruit picker, side show "urger" for a travelling boxing troupe, drover, road worker, and mill hand, brought him in contact with the people who would be the subjects of his photographs. These early years of his career filled him with admiration for those making their livings in some of the toughest environments in Australia.

Throughout his career, Carter has produced series that show the progression of events over time. Concentrating on rituals and process, they comprise evocative images.

Personal life

In 1947 at the age of 19, Jeff Carter married Frances Oscar, a motorcycle rider in a circus sideshow and had two children, daughter, Karen Siobhan Carter, and son Thor. In 1952 he began a de facto relationship with Mary Thompson-Read-Young (known as 'Mare'). They settled in 1962 on a 45-hectare farm at Foxground near the south coast town of Berry, NSW and turned it into a wildlife sanctuary. [10] They had two boys, Goth and Vandal.


Jeff Carter's obituary, written by Robert McFarlane, appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald on 6 November 2010.

Books by Jeff Carter

Exhibitions of work by Jeff Carter

See also

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  1. 1 2 Obituary 6 November 2010
  2. "In the aftermath of war there was a widespread distaste for glamorised, idealised images perceived to be far removed from contemporary life. The work of Jeff Carter can be seen as typical in this respect in its emphasis on unadorned reality. In 1946, equipped with a camera and typewriter, the young Carter began his extensive travels around Australia. His project was conceived in the spirit of honest reportage–he describes himself as a photographer of the poor and unknown–and he often spent considerable amount of time in getting to know the workers and residents he photographed in carious outback Australian communities. Carter's photographs and stories were subsequently published in numerous Australian and international magazines." Ennis, Helen; Hall, Susan, (author.); National Library of Australia; Ennis, Helen (2004), Intersections : photography, history and the National Library of Australia, National Library of Australia, ISBN   978-0-642-10792-3 CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Morgan, Clare (28 October 2010). "Ordinary folks loomed large for the visual poet of the bush". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 January 2011.
  4. WorldCat
  5. Henri Mallard, Frank Hurley, Geoffrey Powell, Edward Cranstone and Axel Poignant were earlier Australian photographers who also worked in film. Ennis, Helen (2007), Photography and Australia, London Reaktion Books, ISBN   978-1-86189-323-9
  6. The title honours Erskine Caldwell's book about Georgia sharecroppers. Caldwell, Erskine (1940), Tobacco road, New American Library, retrieved 2 September 2014
  7. "Inland Heart: The Photography of Jeff Carter". 2011.
  8. "Exhibition and documentary celebrate late photographer's work". ABC News . 13 August 2012.
  9. "Jeff Carter gave a perfect summary of the qualities that 'real' Australians possessed when he described two timber-workers he photographed as: ‘hardworking, upstanding, proud and honest craftsmen…nation builders…worthy of respect. Carter himself has been praised as ‘one able to capture the essence of what it is to be Australian’, a view equally applicable to Dupain." Ennis, Helen (2007), Photography and Australia, London Reaktion Books, ISBN   978-1-86189-323-9
  10. Carter, Mare (2001). A wild life : bringing up a bush menagerie. Bantam Books, Milsons Point, N.S.W
  11. Meacham, Steve (3 January 2011). "Get out and push: why country people never get bogged down". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 3 January 2011.