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Photographer of Hay

A collection of photographs by Miss Irene Brown from the archives of the Hay Historical Society

Rene: Photographer of Hay - front cover
The Hay Historical Society is proud to announce the publication of Rene, a stunning collection of the best photographs of Irene Brown, one of Hay's most renowned photographers.  Rene Brown's work shows scenes of Hay and district in the 1920s and 1930s, and includes many of her views of the 1931 floods, as well as pictures of people, events and historical happenings.  Included are photographs previously held by the National Gallery in Canberra, some of them never before publicly shown.  Rene is 72 pages in length, A4 in size, and printed on high quality art paper.  It is a limited edition, and sure to be a collector's delight.

Cost:  $ 25  (plus $5 for postage & handling within Australia).
Orders by post should be sent to the address below, enclosing a cheque or money order (credit cards cannot be accepted).
Address:  Hay Historical Society Inc., P.O. Box 467, Hay, NSW, 2711.

For additional information about this publication the foreword to Rene, written by the editor Caroline Merrylees, is reproduced below:

Hay has been very fortunate in its photographers, particularly in the twentieth century.  One of the best known was Irene Brown, born in Hay in 1898.  She took an early interest in the camera, and developed a high degree of skill in her chosen field.  The results have been known to all of us, often recognised as the definitive images of an era.  That period of time she covered so well, and for which we are so indebted, was the period between the two world wars, from about 1922 to the 1930's.  A relatively short period, but a splendid one for black and white photography.

Rene's hobby took the form of a personal challenge to record her choice of the most significant scenes, events and buildings in the town she lived in.  Her work was not large in size nor in variety, but it is marked by a determination to achieve a high standard.  She judged herself severely, and at the same time took a great deal of pride in exhibiting works she felt had merit.  Many of her most attractive works were printed on postcards, which were popular and which she sold widely.  There are few family albums or collections in the district which do not have several of her photographs amongst them, particularly those depicting the 1931 floods.  A few of them are signed, but most are not.  They are easily identifiable because their negatives are now part of the archive collection of the Hay Historical Society, and this collection forms the basis and incentive for this book.

The Hay Historical Society's Irene Brown archive has been acquired from several main sources.  The first was a large number of prints and negatives which were given to the Society by Mrs Isabel Johnston, from the estate of her late husband Mr Gavin A. Johnston.  Mr Johnston's photographic coverage of Hay and district is unparalleled, and extends from 1957 to his untimely death in 1995.  During the course of his work as editor and photographer for the Riverine Grazier, Gavin made copies of many of Rene's photographs.  These copies are among the negative collection which was listed and indexed by the Society in 1996-98.

The second group of images came from a large collection of mostly glass negatives which Mrs Daph Brown gave to Mr Rod McCully of the Riverine Grazier.  These were passed on to the Hay Historical Society in 2001, where they were enthusiastically welcomed and gratefully accepted for their potential contribution to the Society's heritage publications and displays.

The Hay Gaol Museum holds many of Rene Brown's photographic prints and copies, and access to these was allowed in 2001 in the course of the Hay Historical Society's task of scanning the Gaol photographic collection and saving it in a digital form.

In March 1981 Miss Brown presented her own choice selection of her work to the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, and it was housed there from that date until recently.  As part of a rationalisation process within the NGA in 2004, this collection was deemed to be more suitable to be de-accessioned to a local organisation which would care for it and use it for the benefit of its original local community.  Several hundred works, including mounted silver gelatine prints, and glass plate negatives, were offered to the Hay Historical Society and duly handed over in October of that year.  The negatives were immediately digitised, and many of the prints also.  In all, the Hay Historical Society's Rene Brown collection consists of many hundreds of images, some of them priceless for their historic importance to the district, and many of them capturing the essence of life in a Riverina town in the early twentieth century.

From such a large number of Rene's images, it has been a challenge to choose just a few to represent her work.  We hope you enjoy our selections as much as we have enjoyed presenting them.

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