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Pat Holmes

Pat Holmes

More information about Pat Holmes can be found in the AWAP register.

Pat Holmes is thought to be the first full-time female photographer on an Australian newspaper.

Holmes was educated at Frensham, later the Winifred West School, where she was encouraged by West to pursue a career in photography. There, in the late 1920s, she met photographer Harold Cazneaux, who was compiling a pictorial record of the school environment (The Frensham Book). When Holmes left school in 1931, she approached Cazneaux to teach her photography, and she worked in his Roseville studio for two years.

In 1937, Holmes became a member of the first Australian Women's Cricket team to tour England. A keen sportswoman, she scored 176 runs in the three tests played. She remained in England until 1939, working in a London printing studio. On her return to Australia, Holmes continued working on her own commissions at home. She searched for employment in Sydney photographic studios for a year before finding work with Monte Luke in Castlereagh Street. In 1943 she was offered a job by Associated Press, and joined the staff of The Sun as a press photographer. She left the paper in 1948, shortly before she married.

Her career in press photography was made and ended by the Second World War, a familiar story for women photographers of her era. When the men went to war, women gladly filled their shoes and thrived on the 'rush' that both speed and economy required of the job. 'You were only allowed one shot for each story, two for a really big one' - a far cry from the luxuries afforded to photographers in the digital age. She enjoyed the camaraderie and the confidence that working on a metropolitan daily gave her - it taught her to speak up and take the initiative. But when the soldier's returned, the government and community expected that they would be found civilian jobs. Women, often highly skilled, were required to make room for them, and Pat was no exception.

She initially missed the newspaper work. 'Life was flat without the variety'. But she became very involved in her family afterwards and that was 'a wonderful time' too.

Holmes died in Sydney in 1992, survived by three children and six grandchildren.

Barbara Lemon


Pat Holmes: New Year's Eve, Kings Cross, 1946, Reproduced in Joan Kerr: Heritage: The Australian National Women's Art Book