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|Artist's Name:||Mervyn BISHOP|
Bishop was born in Brewarrina, New South Wales in 1945. Bishop commenced
a four year photography cadetship with the Sydney Morning Herald in 1962
(where he worked for seventeen years), becoming Australia's first Aboriginal
press photographer. During this period he also completed a Photography
Certificate Course at Sydney Technical College, where he remains, to this
day, the first (and only) Aboriginal person to complete the course.
Bishop was announced Press Photographer of the Year in 1971. In 1974 he commenced work as a photographer with the newly established Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Canberra, a position he held for five years. Bishop returned to the Sydney Morning Herald in 1979; working there until 1986. That same year he was employed as a photographic assistant and advisor for the National Geographic Society, and exhibited his work in the NADOC '86 Exhibition of Aboriginal and Islander Photographers at the Aboriginal Artists Gallery, Sydney. Bishop completed an Associate Diploma of Adult Education (Aboriginal Education) at the Institute of Technical and Adult Teacher Education, Sydney College of Advanced Education in 1989, after which he taught photography at both Tranby College, Sydney and the Eora Centre . He participated in the exhibition Eora and Tranby at the Tin Sheds: New Images in Australian History at the Tin Sheds Gallery, University of Sydney that same year.
In 1991 Bishop's first solo exhibition In Dreams: Mervyn Bishop Thirty Years of Photography 1960-1990, was held at the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney. His work was included in Images of Black Sport at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and Her Story: Images of Domestic Labour in Australian Art at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney that same year. In 1992 Bishop undertook a cultural exchange between the Chinese Photographic Society and Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, travelling to China with fellow photographer, Ellen José. Bishop's work has been widely exhibited since, in exhibitions including Aratjara: Art of the First Australians in 1993 (touring) and Urban Focus: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art from the Urban Areas of Australia at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra in 1994.
Artist statement — Mervyn BISHOP
There are some special reasons for my interest in writing about photography. As the first professional Aboriginal photographer in Australia I have worked for over thirty-five years for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organisations.
I learnt photography in the school of hard knocks, training as a news photographer with the Sydney Morning Herald in the mid-'60s. What I learnt first was how to get the picture the editor wanted. Years later, when working for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs as a staff photographer, I documented Aboriginal communities Australia-wide.
Throughout all this time I was too busy working to have time to stop and think about how photography related to myself, my family and, specifically to the Aboriginal communities I photographed. There were always specific photos to be taken, deadlines to meet. My relatively recent involvement in education has led me to want to understand much more about how photography relates to my own life and history.
I like to take photographs because it makes me feel good and I would like people to stay in the tradition of using the techniques that I came to know and love. Keep photography simple - ie. shooting, processing, printing and so on. There is a place for the new technologies of imagery, and that is to me progress, however it doesn't enthral me. It was magical watching a print that I had made come up in the developer for the first time in my life - I can never forget it. The smell of the darkroom, I was intoxicated by it all. I like to photograph people. Making them feel good about me taking their photograph makes me feel good too.