Maggie Diaz was an American-born Australian commercial photographer. She lived and worked in Melbourne from 1961 until her death in October 2016. She was 90 years old. On Friday 24 February, 2017—on the eve of what would have been her 91st birthday—the State Library of Victoria is holding a public memorial in her honour.

 

Maggie 'Herself', Maggie Diaz

Maggie ‘Herself’, Maggie Diaz, 1950-1969

Diaz’s photography career started in Chicago, USA, in the 1950s. Her work documented the housing projects of the Lower North side and the more upmarket Tavern Club where she was the resident photographer. Her skill at capturing unstaged interactions between people became apparent as she moved between these two worlds, exposing the emotions and experiences that bind people together regardless of where they are. That’s not to suggest her work is sentimental: as Diaz herself once said, ‘I don’t do sweet’.

 

Skipping girls [and boys, Lower North Center, Chicago], Maggie Diaz

Skipping girls, Maggie Diaz, 1950-1960

The Tavern Club baseball excersion, Maggie Diaz

The Tavern Club baseball excersion, Maggie Diaz

Diaz made her way to Australia after she received a one-way ticket to Melbourne as a divorce gift from her ex-husband. It was a change of pace. Compared to Chicago ‘it felt as though nothing was happening’; 1960s Melbourne felt to her ‘docile, English and conservative’. But the city did have one thing: a growing economy and, with it, work for a talented photographer. Diaz made Australia her home, surrounding herself with friends and starting a family, all while bringing her considered eye to our nation’s streets and people.

Diaz’s first exhibition at the Library was in 2011 as part of the group exhibition As modern as tomorrow – photographers in post-war Melbourne.

 

[Child with an elephant at a circus], Maggie Diaz

[Child with an elephant at a circus], Maggie Diaz

[Tony MacDougall's wife and three children], Maggie Diaz

[Tony MacDougall’s wife and three children], Maggie Diaz, 1963

Ansett-ANA, Briggs Canny James, 1962

Ansett-ANA, Briggs Canny James, Paramour booklet, Maggie Diaz, 1962

The Diaz Collection (purchased in 2010) here at the Library spans the body of her work: it’s made up of near to 30,000 film negatives, a selection of which is available online. It’s the person behind the work the Library will be celebrating on Friday 24 February. The memorial will run from 4 to 5:30pm. 

 

This Facebook event will provide more information.

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