I don't like analysing photographs, I don't like analysing paintings. My whole attitude to life has been emotional and I depend on emotions to get my kicks. I always find myself resisting reading people's motivations for their work. It could so easily not be the truth.
- Lewis Morley
The exhibition Lewis Morley is the first time the Gallery has focused on Lewis Morley's career. It covers his work from the 1940s until now and includes 150 of Morley's photographs covering fashion, theatre and reportage plus a large selection of contact sheets, magazines and ephemera. "Many of these photographs have not been seen before," said curator of the exhibition, Judy Annear.
Morley worked as a portrait and fashion photographer in London and in Sydney. He used his interest in street photography to enliven this work. He worked for Tatler, London Life, Go! and She. Morley took the first fashion photographs of Twiggy and of Jean Shrimpton and, in 1963, took that picture of Christine Keeler, which has become one of the most iconic images of the 20th century.
His long term interest in the performing arts meant that he already knew many actors in London, such as Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Barry Humphries, Albert Finney, Charlotte Rampling, Vanessa Redgrave and Susannah York. His encounter with Lindsay Anderson in 1959 led to Morley photographing more than 100 West End productions through the 1960s.
From 1962-64 Lewis was resident photographer for the wildly successful BBC-TV show, That was the week that was.
Despite Morley's extensive experience in London in the 1960s with the print medium, theatre, satire, television and film, and his travels in Europe, the US and Africa the scene was beginning to pall and he moved to Sydney in 1971.
From Morley's point of view, the fact that he was a self taught photographer was an asset. He could work out how to do things in efficient and interesting ways. In-between magazine work he continued to do his own work, having studied painting at art schools in England and Paris, whether with the camera or with objects.
In Sydney, Morley worked for style magazines shooting interiors all over the world for Belle, portraits for Pol and fashion for Dolly. He no longer did theatre photography, a genre in which he had excelled in London where he very ably reflected the gritty realist drama of the time and the exuberance of the satirical shows. In England it was as though he had completely disappeared until the late 1980s when the National Portrait Gallery in London held a retrospective of his work. For the last 15 years Lewis has been progressively 'rediscovered' both in Australia and in England and in 2005 the National Gallery in Canberra honoured Morley's 80th birthday.
The exhibition is an important opportunity to view the full range of his work and includes photographs of the great political protests of the 1960s as well as remarkable locations in Europe and Asia. The contact sheets for his theatre work and reportage show how Lewis worked and then how he might crop a chosen image. This can be seen in The Brian Epstein story and in the Keeler shots.
Morley, who is 81 in June, continues to work steadily and his most recent photographs in the exhibition are from the last few years and include many location shots as well as portraits of British luminaries such as Beth Orton and Tracey Emin and Australia's Margaret Olley.
The catalogue accompanying the exhibition includes an interview with Lewis where he discusses his thoughts on Cartier-Bresson and Lartigue, theatre and photography of the late 1950s and 1960s, his Chinese heritage and its importance, his love/hate relationship with photography and the enduring power of the image.