International photographer has WA history in the frame

91-year-old Richard Woldendorp with a selection of his work at Mundaring Arts Centre.
A self-portrait (34) taken in Darlington where Richard Woldendorp had his first dark room in 1961.
91-year-old Richard Woldendorp with a selection of his work at Mundaring Arts Centre. A self-portrait (34) taken in Darlington where Richard Woldendorp had his first dark room in 1961.

PHOTOGRAPHIC artwork by a living treasure is attracting hundreds of visitors through the doors of Mundaring Arts Centre.

Richard Woldendorp (91) has lived in Mundaring Shire since 1952 and through his black and white images, he shares a glimpse of WA history.

Curators Lisa Hegarty and Clare Stroud said the renowned aerial photographer had dreamt of exhibiting in his local gallery.

“He does what he does simply because he is in awe of the Australian landscape,” Ms Stroud said.

Woldendorp was named a State Living Treasure in 2004 and made a member of the Order of Australia in 2012, ‘for service to the arts as an Australian landscape photographer’.

Born in Holland, he studied painting at school and went on to study design at a tertiary level.

He joined the Dutch Army at 19 and during his four years in Indonesia was tantalised by stories of Australia.

The adventurer arrived in Fremantle in 1951, set up a house-painting business and worked throughout WA.

He bought his first block of land in Darlington in 1952 and became friends with musician Rob Hyner, and took landscape-painting lessons from Wim Boissevain.

On the advice of a friend, he bought his first camera in 1955 to take photos on a holiday back to Holland.

“When he developed his first film, he was astounded at the capacity of the detail in an image and how a moment in time could be captured forever,” Ms Stroud said.

“He returned to Perth with a desire to document the relatively unseen Australian landscape and its people for the rest of the world to see.”

He joined the Cottesloe Camera Club and with the group’s encouragement, he entered the 1961 Craven ‘A’ National Portrait competition and won two awards.

A professional career in photography began.

St George’s Terrace in Perth, 1964.

With the world focus on WA’s mineral boom, he won commissions for his work from government departments, mining companies and the Australian Tourist Commission.

He built a body of work and published ‘The Hidden Face of Australia’ in 1968 to wide acclaim.

His focus changed from life on the land to aerial work in the 1980s and he captured candid moments of WA history.

Woldendorp went on to publish more than 20 books and his latest, The Tree, will be released in November.

He will be in the gallery from 1pm on Sunday, July 15 to discuss his early works.

What: Woldendorp: A Black and White Retrospective

When: Until 3pm, July 15

Where: Mundaring Arts Centre