Margaret Michaelis: Love, Loss and Photography

Helen Ennis, National Gallery of Australia

Margaret Michaelis: Love, Loss and Photography
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Margaret Michaelis: Love, Loss and Photography

Helen Ennis, National Gallery of Australia

Take the photographs, the elderly photographer Margaret Michaelis said in October 1985 to Helen Ennis, then a young curator from the National Gallery of Australia. Michaelis died a few days later and her archive was donated to the Gallery. Like many of her generation, Michaelis’s life in Europe was dislocated by the rise of fascism and the outbreak of World War II, following which she suffered acute personal losses and challenges in finding a new path for her art and life in Australia.For Ennis, the injunction from Michaelis resulted in a journey through the hundreds of photographs in Michaelis’s archive and to sites across the world in Vienna, Berlin, Barcelona, and Cracow. Crucial to the story are the dozens of love letters exchanged between Michaelis and her first husband, a prominent German anarchist imprisoned during the Spanish Civil War. Helen Ennis has approached the artistic legacy of Margaret Michaelis through a lucid and eloquent interweaving of her subject’s professional and personal life.Helen Ennis is a senior lecturer at the Australian National University School of Art.

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