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Penny Tweedie; World-ranging photographer who made award-winning portraits of poverty, the effects of war and the lives of Australia's Aborigines
The Times (London, England). (Feb. 5, 2011): News: p78. From Academic OneFile.
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Penny Tweedie was a photographer of extraordinary versatility who was equally at home working in war zones, photographing the wealthy and famous, chronicling the lives and landscapes of the Aboriginal people in Australia or - later in life - amid the gentle pastures of her native Kent.

She made her name in the Sixties, photographing the young Twiggy, among others, but it was her stark and harrowing portraits of inner-city poverty in Glasgow - shot as part of a campaign for the charity Shelter - that put her name in the first rank of photojournalists.

Her career reached its zenith in the next two decades, in the heyday of Sunday newspaper colour supplements, when she worked all around the world, commanding large fees and having her work displayed in features that often extended to page after page of the magazines. She also worked regularly for National Geographic, Newsweek and Time. Tweedie was frequently demanding and could test the patience of commissioning editors, but it was always in pursuit of the best possible results and her employers knew that her pictures would be worth the trouble.

She found a contented second home in Australia, where a relaxed lifestyle suited her temperament, and went to live for a time in the outback with the Aboriginal people. It was typical of her immersion in her work that she took her young son with her. The photographs she took were collected into three books, This My Country (1985), Spirit of Arnhem Land (1998) and Indigenous Australia Standing Strong (2001). Her work was widely exhibited, and she won the Walkley award for photojournalism in Australia in 1999, but she did not publish before taking the book proofs back to Arnhem Land to make sure that her subjects were happy with their portrayal.

In recent years, however, the flow of commissions dried up and fees diminished.

She felt keenly that the emergence of digital photography had made redundant many of the skills that she had spent her working life perfecting. She tried with no success to find publishers for more books of the pictures she had taken among the native people of Australia. For someone defined by their work, these were deeply upsetting developments that she found it increasingly hard to accept.

Back in Kent in her final years, she worked for the National Trust and photographed the countryside of the Weald, but pictures of the county's bountiful produce or of gardeners at work at Sissinghurst were a far cry from the drama of the Sixties and Seventies when she covered the Paris student riots of 1968, photographed Bob Dylan at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969 and spent time in the war zones of Biafra and Bangladesh.

Penelope Anne Tweedie was born in 1940 in Hawkhurst, Kent, and educated at the nearby girls' school, Benenden. She dismayed her parents by opting to study photography at Guildford Art School and from there went to Queen magazine, a fashionable publication covering London's young smart set. Queen had asked the college to send them its brightest student and it proved the ideal launchpad for Tweedie's career.

Among her subjects during this time was David Hockney, then in his final year at the Royal College of Art. He was, she remembered, "very confident, very engaging ... a rising star."

Her work for Shelter in the notorious Gorbals district of Glasgow was the start of a long-standing involvement with charities and NGOs. She took a great many pictures for Oxfam, Help the Aged, Save the Children and Christian Aid. It was while working for Oxfam in Africa that she took some of the first photographs of people suffering from Aids.

But it was her assignments for Sunday newspaper colour magazines that really established her standing. In one instance the Telegraph magazine put a fictitious byline on some of her pictures to disguise the fact that she had taken almost every photograph in that week's issue.

Tweedie was in India in 1971 when The Sunday Times asked her to cover the war in Bangladesh. Taken initially for a spy, she spent time in a grim Indian prison but was released and took a set of photographs of Bangladeshi intellectuals being rounded up and murdered by retreating Pakistanis.

But when attending a victory celebration near Dhaka she realised that a group of prisoners who were accused of being collaborators were about to be bayoneted to death, mainly for the benefit of the assembled foreign media. Tweedie and some other photographers refused to record the murders, but others who took a different view won prizes for the images they captured.

The following year she was one of the journalists expelled from Uganda when General Idi Amin ordered the deportation of the country's Asian population, and in 1973 she narrowly escaped being hit by shell fire on the Golan Heights while covering the Yom Kippur war. She also worked in Beirut, and during the aftermath of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean she lived with the guerrillas in East Timor - their leader Xanana Gusmao, who rose to be the country's President, became a friend.

Her association with Australia began in 1975 when she was asked by the BBC to photograph the filming of a programme about the explorers Burke and Wills. Her work with the Aboriginal peoples led to her taking a house in Sydney and for a time she moved between Australia and Britain. For another BBC commission she travelled around the US with Alistair Cooke. All in all, she worked in more than 70 countries.

As well as her early portraits of Twiggy and Hockney she photographed, among many others, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Germaine Greer, Colonel Gaddafi, and Diana, Princess of Wales, at Ayres Rock.

She returned to Kent to care for her mother and completed a series of photographs of Kent and Sussex for a book celebrating 30 years of the Hospice in the Weald. In 2008 she taught photography in Nigeria and gave away her entire film stock which by that time had been digitised.

She is survived by her son.

Penny Tweedie, photographer, was born on April 30, 1940. She was found dead on January 14, 2011, aged 70

For Oxfam she took the first pictures of Aids sufferers in Africa


Tweedie, below, published three books of photographs about Australian Aborigines, like this one of a boy catching a crab in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition)
"Penny Tweedie; World-ranging photographer who made award-winning portraits of poverty, the effects of war and the lives of Australia's Aborigines." Times [London, England], 5 Feb. 2011, p. 78. Academic OneFile, Accessed 22 Apr. 2019.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A248415035