25 years of Australian Geographic photography

By Chrissie Goldrick 27 September 2010
Reading Time: 3 Minutes Print this page
We celebrate 25 years of the best photography in the nation.

IN RECENT MONTHS THE atmosphere of concentrated effort and quiet, rigorous enquiry that usually characterises the Australian Geographic editorial office has been sporadically shattered by voices raised in heated debate and on desktops everywhere, yellow sticky notes protrude from old AG journals and books. The light box, rarely used these days, is back at centre stage as sheets of colour transparencies are retrieved from the archives to be examined under the magnifier, then rejected or occasionally plucked out and sent away for specialised scanning.

There’s a growing sense of excitement as time passes. It’s almost 25 years since the first edition of the Australian Geographic journal appeared in December 1985 and our 100th edition is now published, so we’ve decided to throw a party, of sorts, by producing a book, a big, bold, beautiful book inspired by one of our greatest passions: photography.


Dick Smith’s original vision for the journal was that it present a positive view of Australia with stories that highlight all that is worth raving about: the amazing landforms, the unique natural history, the grit and endeavour, the spirit of adventure and perhaps most poignantly, the people. All people, not just those fascinating but easy-to-access folk doing great things in the cities where most of us live, but the ones to be found beyond the urban fringe, past the margin, out there in the vastness, under the big skies.

The journal’s visual style was set in motion early. The images would reinforce the positive nature of the stories; they would be highly colour-saturated to capture the bright hues of the landscape: the brick reds of the deserts, the brilliant blue of that endless sky, the grey-greens of the eucalypt forests. They would be pin sharp to elicit each furrowed brow, every line on faces etched by experience and long days spent on the land. Our lenses were charged with seeking out Australia’s native fauna. They needed to be long, very long – and the eye behind them needed to know much about the subjects. Most of these creatures are small, shy, and they generally prefer to work nights.

The photographers, too, are part of the deal. The stories were to be commissioned from scratch and the best writing and photographic talent available was to be sent forth to spend time in the field in pursuit of original stories and fresh images. Such lofty ideals have formed the core of our endeavour in the 25 years that have since elapsed.

We continue to value originality and skill in storytelling. The world has changed. The accessibility of 24/7 media makes it an even greater challenge for us to find and deliver original, attention-grabbing stories: once remote and inaccessible spots are teeming with grey nomads and backpackers. The abundance of little critters once seen scurrying around the arid zones has dwindled and only the most persistent and tenacious of photographers will find enough action there to justify an extended field trip. We welcome a challenge, and the media explosion provides new opportunities for the future, too.

But for now, in this year of milestones, we are taking the opportunity to look back, and we hope you will enjoy looking through a brief selection of the more than 160 stunning images that appear in 25 Years of Australian Geographic Photography. The book is packed with old favourites that you might remember and loads of recent images that we have loved, and we hope you do, too.

AG has evolved in 25 years, in style, content and, of course, we have negotiated a path through the digital revolution. The book contains a mixture of images made on both film and digital media, but we defy you to distinguish between them. In the end, it’s the person behind the lens who makes a great photograph, the technology merely the means by which that vision is delivered. We have been fortunate enough to be able to use the talents of Australia’s finest photographers and this book is filled with their unforgettable images. 

— Chrissie Goldrick, AG picture editor


Subscribe or renew here to get your free copy of 25 Years of Australian Geographic Photography