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Portraits of the Soul — A lifetime of images with Bill McAuley

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Barry Humphries (Image courtesy of Bill McAuley)

A new book by former award-winning photojournalist Bill McAuley delivers engaging stories and enduring images of some of the world's most famous and other folks.

Visually stunning is a fitting way to describe the book Portraits of the Soul: A lifetime of images with Bill McAuley. But even more pleasing than the singular photographs – and it would make a handsome coffee-table book – is the book’s individual stories as told by a gifted storyteller.

A former photojournalist of 40 years, Bill McAuley began his career in newspapers and magazines in 1969 as a cadet photographer at The Age in Melbourne.

He went on to capture some of Australia’s most telling and entertaining moments: Gough Whitlam’s election win in 1972, followed by The Dismissal three years later; the murderous Queen Street massacre in 1987; the great Cathy Freeman, dreaming of gold before her momentous win in Canada at the Commonwealth Games in 1994 and Michael Jackson’s magnetic performance at the MCG in 1996.

Kathy Freeman (Image courtesy of Bill McAuley)

McAuley is a born raconteur and it’s the tales he tells about the famous and other folks he met and photographed which set this book apart from other “photobooks”.

The 80-year-old Lasich brothers lived their entire lives in a cabin in Gippsland’s Dargo High Plains, built 100 years earlier by their father… and yes, McAuley reveals, they were still virgins at 80.

Over a drink, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser chatted about art and other things. The big man near shed a tear, reminiscing about how he felt misunderstood by the Australian public during his time as PM.

Barry Humphries hammed it up with some new material he was working on before popping a monocle over his left eye in what would turn out to be one of McAuley’s strongest portraits.

And hilarity ensued during a photoshoot with champion boxer, Lionel Rose

Rose said he was “surprised” when the reporter accompanying McAuley on his assignment – Stuart Rintoul – asked the boxer about the time he was found by the police hiding behind a schoolroom cupboard. 

Then Rintoul asked:

“Do you mean you were surprised because you never thought your life would come to that?”

Answered Rose:

“No. I was surprised because I never thought the police would look behind the cupboard!”

McAuley maintains that he tries to ‘build a rapport with each subject, wanting to connect…’ and it’s clear from the strength and humanity in his images that it doesn’t matter who they are – ‘rock stars, criminals, street people, artists, or the kids next door’ – something special happens when he clicks the shutter.

Malcolm Fraser (Image courtesy of Bill McAuley)

Portraits of the Soul is equally revealing. The reader experiences tender, joyful and powerful moments while also getting a window into the sensitive soul of the man behind the camera.

Having distinguished himself early in his career, McAuley has won the coveted Australian Press Photographer of The Year Award and many of his portraits have since been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

Warm and witty with personal snapshots of intimate conversations and, of course, timeless photographs, this book is a gem.

Portraits of the Soul: A lifetime of images with Bill McAuley can be purchased directly here.

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