Beach, bush & battlers: iconic Aussie images

By Amy Middleton 22 March 2013
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Jeff Carter artfully captured mid-century scenes of everyday Australians – from coast to country.

THE NATURE OF A PLACE isn’t just about its landscape. It is often the people – their activities and interactions – that best capture a scene in time.

This is a truth that Australian photographer Jeff Carter understood intimately. His images of everyday Australians, captured from the 1940s onwards, have endured in Australia’s historic consciousness for their ability to depict poignant moments in a young nation’s development.

An exhibition of his images entitled Beach, bush and battlers, currently touring regional New South Wales, exemplifies Jeff as one of Australia’s finest portrait-makers.

Regional, coastal and urban: Australia in the 1950s

Jeff travelled widely during his career as a photojournalist, documenting people and scenes – from the deeply rural to the white-bred suburban – in an attempt to illustrate Australian culture. His penchant for beach scenes reflects the surf culture that saturated coastlines during the 1960s and ‘70s.

From the hardship of Tobacco Road to the frivolity of Bondi, it was Jeff’s ability to capture the essence of character through expression and physicality that earned his images their iconic status.

“Jeff was drawn to documenting and celebrating the lives of ‘ordinary’ people at work and play,” says Sandra Byron, curator of the exhibition. “You can see in his images that he had a genuine admiration and respect for his subjects and the way they endured hardships, and he developed strong and lasting friendships with these people.”

Jeff also wrote and illustrated 20 books, and produced Wild Country, a television series depicting Australia which received international recognition. He died in October 2010, leaving a legacy of images some 50,000 strong.

See Beach, bush and battlers at the following locations:

Tumut Public Library, 8 April – 28 April 2013

Cootamundra Public Library, 6 May – 26 May 2013

Penrith Public Library, 3 June – 23 June 2013

Kogarah Public Library, 1 July – 21 July 2013

Leichhardt Public Library, 29 July – 18 August 2013

Camden Public Library, 26 August – 27 September 2013

Gilgandra Public Library, 7 October – 27 October 2013

Liverpool Public Library, 4 November – 20 December 2013

Wagga Wagga City Gallery, 10 February – 30 March 2014