Modernist imagery of Great Barrier Reef

Associate Professor Ann Elias
Honorary Harold White Fellowship

In 2014 the National Library of Australia (NLA) offered Harold White Fellowships to established researchers and writers. The fellowships scheme promoted the Library as a centre of scholarly activity and research, encouraged scholarly and literary use of the Library’s collections and production of publications arising from that scholarship, and promoted the Library’s rich and varied collections.

Ann Elias is undertaking an Honorary Harold White Fellowship with a project titled Modernist imagery of Great Barrier Reef, focused on what the NLA’s collection of pictures, books, and manuscripts reveal about the way the Great Barrier Reef was pictured in the modern period. Ann’s project concentrates on the years 1880 to 1960: a time when the Reef went from being barely known by tourists to the first stages of commercial development. Her investigation has uncovered images beautiful and uncanny. They reinforce the image of the Barrier Reef as a fairyland but also a barbed wired rampart. Images of monsters both real and imaginary are a commonplace in the way the Reef has been visually represented. But among the most suggestive and haunting are photographs from the Frank Hurley collection.

Frank Hurley, [Clam and coral, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland], National Library of Australia, PIC F

Frank Hurley, [Clam and coral, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland], National Library of Australia, PIC FH/8990

Listen to Associate Professor Ann Elias's lecture at the National Library in September 2014


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