The top half of the image is a black and white photo of an elderly man in a suit and a hat, sitting in a garden. The bottom half of the image is a blue sky with whispy white clouds across it. The text over the bottom half of this image reads 'Viewfinder. Photography from the 1970s to now. From the National Library of Australia.'
National Library of Australia

Viewfinder is a dynamic and insightful look at how Australia has changed over the last 50 years, through a survey of photographs from the National Library of Australia’s collection. These images, ranging from the 1970s to the present day, also tell the fascinating story of the changing nature of photography as a medium to record our lives.

Australia has changed radically in the last half-century – economically and culturally, we have opened our arms to the world. The way we work and play has changed, as well as our very idea of Australian identity. Waves of protest during these decades, as well as an increasing cultural diversity thanks to immigration from all around the world, have made us more accepting of, and willing to celebrate, difference. Our relationship and attitudes to the environment have also changed, particularly as we continue to move away from the bush to the big coastal cities and become more aware of the threat of climate change.

Along with these social changes, the nature of photography has also evolved. The last half-century saw the acceptance of photography as an art form, as well as astounding changes in technology – particularly the increased use of colour and digital by professionals and amateurs alike. The world was changing and photographers had acquired a bigger toolbox of techniques and approaches to record these changes.

Accompanying an exhibition of the same name, Viewfinder is a wide-ranging representation of the Australian experience. Just as your photo albums, whether physical or digital, tell your story, this remarkably wide-ranging collection of images serves as a valuable aide to help us understand our country and its people.