Bifocal glasses on a chicken at the Royal Agricultural Show, New South Wales, 6 September, 1962

J. A. (John Aloysius) Mulligan (1927-1996), Bifocal glasses on a chicken at the Royal Agricultural Show, New South Wales, 6 September, 1962, nla.pic-an24539208

If you recall the 1960s you will find much of interest in the work of Australian press photographer John Mulligan (1927-1996), which has recently been digitised for the Web by the National Library of Australia. Over 1800 of Mulligan’s images are now online in the Library’s Catalogue.

The sixties saw the arrival of new technology and Mulligan was there to capture the wonders of the three-minute car wash, shopping trolleys when they were a cause for marvel, the rise and rise of Laminex, fire sprinklers newly installed at the NSW Fire Brigade headquarters, the gleaming interior of the new Cahill Expressway tunnel, and the even more gleaming interior of the loo of the new TAA Lockheed Elektra Mark II (decorously subject-catalogued as ‘Aircraft cabin’). He documented the last years of the pre-computer age in Australia: from schoolgirls being taught to use manual typewriters and adding machines, to the bright new Control Room at Mascot airport in 1962, with its pristine card files and a display board regularly updated by a young woman on a ladder.

Mulligan juggled contracts with TAA, the Catholic Weekly, Hoyts Theatres, manufacturing companies such as Repco and other employers. In between contracts he often waited at Mascot airport in hopes of catching a VIP. On one of these occasions he shot a rare photograph of young Australian Nazis, completed with arm-bands, awaiting the arrival of Eric Ray Wenberg, self-styled Australian Nazi leader, in 1968.

Mulligan also photographed those for whom publicity was a way of life – the media stars who often seemed to come in pairs: Bob and Dolly Dyer, Dawn Lake and Bobby Limb, Smokey Dawson and his horse Flash. Mulligan was often invited to the homes of stars for publicity shots, and one result of this is a delightful photograph of Johnny O’Keefe bathing his toddlers in 1962.

A Demonstration of a three minute car wash, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney, 17 January, 1963

J. A. (John Aloysius) Mulligan (1927-1996), A demonstration of a three minute car wash, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney, 17 January, 1963, nla.pic-an24598049

These photographs are being digitised just in time. They are on the acetate film base commonly used in the sixties and seventies, and are showing signs of imminent deterioration. The digital copies will preserve Mulligan’s work for those of us who still remember IBM electric typewriters, Housewife of the Year competitions and the crowds mobbing LBJ, and for the future generations for whom the sixties and seventies will be beyond the beginning of memory.

Mulligan’s photographs were purchased by the National Library from his widow Toti, who lives near Gosford. The images digitised so far can be seen here. The Mulligan photographs are one of the latest additions to over 70,000 other historic Australian images available on this database.


Linda Groom

Pictures Librarian