Over the course of his 50-year career, news photographer Bruce Postle captured images of the rich, the famous and the powerful. But on many occasions, his work also involved the most humble and vulnerable people in the community.

We spoke to Bruce and asked, ‘What are the attributes of a great photojournalist?’ Bruce replied:

You’ve got to have empathy with people. You have to be part of their life for the few minutes you’re there.

Below, Bruce talks about two of his favourite images that bear out not only this sentiment, but also how he was equally comfortable speaking to those with the most and the least power in our society.

Sammy Davis Jnr, 1977. Courtesy Bruce Postle

Sammy Davis Jnr

‘I took this image on stage with a 400 mm lens, hand-held from side of stage. As soon as I pressed the shutter I thought, “That’s all I need”. I went back to the office and they used it on page one. He [Sammy] went back to America with [a copy of] the paper. Three weeks later my boss Ray Blackburn picked up the phone, and it was him. He spoke to him for about five minutes then held it up and said, “Bruce, Sammy Davis Jnr wants a word with you”.

‘Sammy said, “Bruce, you took a picture of me when I was in Melbourne, that’s the greatest photo ever taken of me. Could you please send me over four poster-sized prints?” He’d already asked Blackie [Bruce’s boss] and I asked him if that would be alright and he said, “You’re going to take the rest of the afternoon off, print the photos, and the Age will send them over tonight”. About three weeks later – it took the photos that long to get there – he had framed and autographed one of the prints and sent it back to me with a beautiful letter saying: “Thanks very much for this picture”.

‘Sammy came back to Australia 18 months later to do a Hilton Hotel tour and he rang me from the Hilton and said, “Bruce, Sammy Davis Jnr here. I’ve got this show at the Hilton, I want you and your wife, or you and your girlfriend – I don’t know your marriage status – but you can bring both of them if you like”.

‘We went along to the show and we had a table about 20 feet from centre stage. There was a bottle of French champagne on the table with a note hanging off it: “Thanks for the photo – Sammy Davis Jnr”. The guy did a two-hour show, left the stage, showered and changed and came up, shook us both by the hand and said, “Now I’m going to buy you a drink”. He sat with us for 30 minutes and his guard came up and said, “You’re supposed to be somewhere else”, and he said, “No I’m not, I’m supposed to be here with Bruce having a drink with him”, which was really nice. Anyway he had to leave to go somewhere else, but he was a lovely man, a fantastic person, and he loved that photo.’

Shadow of a shaky existence, 1987. Courtesy Bruce Postle

Shadow of a shaky existence

‘One day I was driving into town and I saw this lady walking down Punt Road. She had all her valuables in a trolley. I was on the wrong side of Punt Road – in peak hour traffic – so I did a left-hand turn and parked in a side street. I ran down the road with a 300 mm lens – I knew I was going to need it because I was shooting right across the road to the other side.

‘When I first saw her there was no shadow, there was no brick wall behind her, but when I came back I witnessed this amazing scene. I got one frame between cars – there’s a car in the corner of the picture and the moment after I took this there was a big truck behind this car and by the time the truck had gone through the picture the brick wall had finished and the shadow had gone.

‘I went back to work with this photo and I was called into the editor’s office and he said, “Bruce, it’s a great picture of a homeless person but we’re not going to use it until you take a print out of it to her and ask her permission”. I thought that was fantastic.

‘It took me three days to find her and when I did, I showed her the print and she had nowhere to put it but she said, “I’ll put this up in the Salvation Army place where I have breakfast every morning”. So I asked her, “Can we use it?” and she said, “Yes, I’ve always wanted to be on the front page of the Age”, which is where they used it. I was really pleased that the editor said that to me – to go and find her and ask her – for her to be able to put that up in the Salvation Army place made a nice finish to the story.’

See more of Bruce Postle’s captivating photography and learn about our annual appeal raising funds to help us secure and preserve the extraordinary Bruce Postle Archive for future generations.


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