State Library of New South Wales

Frank Hurley collection of diaries, 10 November 1912 – 13 August 1918

Purchased from Frank Hurley, August 1919, MLMSS 389 / Box 5 / Item 1


Back in Sydney in 1918, Hurley produced an exhibition of his photographs from the war and gave a series of lectures with his images and the films that he had recorded while at the war.

In 1917, Hurley was appointed official war photographer with the rank of honorary captain in the AIF. He travelled to France, Belgium, Egypt and Palestine, documenting Australia’s involvement in the war.

Hurley served as official photographer with the AIF in the Middle East during World War II.

Hurley and official historian Charles Bean had a falling-out over Hurley’s ‘composite’ photographs. Hurley had developed a technique of merging several negatives into one impressive picture that to him truly represented what it was like being in the middle of a battle. For Bean these composite pictures were fakes.

On 9 November 1917, Hurley was ordered to proceed to Egypt to photograph the Middle East campaign. Much adventure awaited him.

In Cairo, Hurley met opera singer Antoinette Rosalind Leighton, and after a ten-day courtship, they were married on 11 April 1918.

While in Palestine, Hurley flew in an aeroplane for the first time. He photographed the iconic Australian Light Horse during the battle of Jericho.

Before the war, Hurley had worked as official photographer on two expeditions to the Antarctic. He accompanied Sir Douglas Mawson on the Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1911–13. A year later, in October 1914, he returned to Antarctica as a member of Shackleton’s expedition, where he produced his most famous photographs of the ship Endurance being gradually crushed by pack ice.