Nature photographer Ern Mainka had a gift for capturing the divine. Madeleine Say, the Library’s Pictures Collection manager, tells us more about Mainka’s extraordinary photographs in her guest blog this week.


Panorama near Mt Buffalo, Winter 1990; H2015.4/1512

Ern Mainka’s (1954-2014) sublime images of the Australian environment were widely used during the 1980s and 1990s by environment and conservation groups in their campaigns. His images of places like the East Gippsland forests, Wilsons Promontory and Warrandyte (his home for many years) featured in posters, books and online.


Erinundra Plateau, November 1995; H2015.4/1740

Ern Mainka’s dedication to recording the natural environment was legendary. His images capture remote locations, using medium format cameras and colour transparency film. His images range from wider landscapes to an intimate look at the patterns and details of nature.


Eucalyptus leaves, 1990s; H2015.4/3820

Like many photographers, Ern Mainka began using a camera as a boy. His photographic career started in 1971 as an assistant photographer with the Postmaster-General’s Department (PMG). In 1975 when PMG was disaggregated, Mainka’s career continued with Telecom Australia.

Mainka’s work won the Landscape Category in the Professional Photographer of the Year for 1986, and in 1988 he left Telecom to concentrate on recording the Australian landscape. His work over the next two decades created images of a wide variety of Australian landscape, from coastal scenes to inland rock formations, forests and natural events like floods.


Emu tracks across Pink Lakes, November 1989; H2015.4/2946

The Mainka family has generously donated his archive of colour transparencies to the State Library of Victoria to ensure his legacy can be preserved for future generations.

This article has 8 comments

  1. Love the Ern Mainka photo of the Erinundra Plateau forest stream Nov 1995 H2015.4/1740 ! Wish I was there now…
    Thank you for sharing a brief moment of joy!

  2. Was a neighbour of Ern’s – delighted to know his images are now a State Library collection. Is it available to view? Lovely.

    • Hi Barb, Glad you enjoyed the images. The images have been selectively digitised, so some are available to view through the library catalogue (as per blog links) whilst others are only available as slides. If you would like to view more of the collection, you can submit a request through the Ask a librarian link on our home page, and our Pictures team will be in touch. Thanks, Sarah

  3. The top photo here, the panorama, is actually on Mt Buffulo, not near Mt Feathertop. I was there with Ernie when he took this photo.

  4. Just discovered these beautiful photos of Ern Mainka. Do you know if there would be any copyright or other restrictions if I want to use some as reference for my painting?

    • Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for your question.

      These Ern Mainka’s images are in copyright but we don’t have any information on who the current copyright holder is. Ern passed away in 2014 and since then have been unable to establish who now holds the copyright.


  5. Ernie’s death notice mentions his siblings who may retain copyright:
    MAINKA. Ernest Gordon. Died at home, 29 May 2014 aged 59 years.
    Youngest son of Ern and Maisie (both dec) and
    brother to Lorna and Bruce.

    Ent Mainka was a fabulously talented photographer and gentle soul. His photographs were an important in communicating the wonders of East Gippsland’s forests and the campaign to create expanded national parks. Sadly missed as a person and artist, but it is great that his slides are in the SLV collection where they can be seen by future generations. Also a record of natural features lost to logging and transformed by the 2020 fires.

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