Sue Adler

“We would like you to photograph Nicole Kidman in Sydney, Luciano Pavarotti in Chicago, Yvonne Kenny in Russia, Terence Davies in London and Baz Luhrmann in New York”.

For 25 years I have been privileged as a freelance photographer to photograph many of the world’s artistic and creative elite. The commissions have taken me to 25 countries on four continents. However, I felt the real privilege in all that time was, whilst I was told who to photograph, I was rarely told how to photograph them. The freedom to interpret each subject is very liberating.

I applied that same freedom to my performance work where, once again the images were of the most visually dramatic moments of performance rather than the dramatic musical peaks which, when stripped of sound and movement, do not necessarily make visually exciting imagery.

Likewise, my many other commissions which included ‘La Boheme’ for Baz Luhrmann, “Star Wars: Episode 11” for George Lucas and the Australian Ballet 40th anniversary calendar, were almost always ‘interference free’ and that in itself, in a world full of Producers, Publicity Advisers, Marketing Managers, Media Advisers and Stylists was, and continues to be, immensely liberating and rewarding.

Awards for exhibitions and books: (Arts Photographer of the Year, twice), (runner up twice over a period of 5 years) are wonderful and vindicating but capturing that elusive ‘moment’ whether it be during a portrait session, buried in a dress rehearsal or during a pause in filming, is, for me, what makes my continuing pursuit of ‘the image’ so unendingly exciting.

In 1998 I received a Distinguished Talent Migrant visa from the Australian government, which allowed me to move to and work in Australia accompanied by my husband, Tony McGrath, and 2 years later I took up Australian citizenship.

Early career:
After 4 years at Hornsey College of Art with Painting as my main subject I was invited to accompany the Toronto Globe and Mail, Arts correspondent, Adele Freedman, who had favourably reviewed my one-woman exhibition in Toronto titled ‘Boxers Nuns and Catholics, to photograph the ‘Avante Garde’ in Italy. This exhibition highlighted the direction my work was to take when transitioning from my Fine Art degree in Painting to photography which was mostly self-taught, focussing on people whose lives were totally different from my own. On my return from my Italian ‘Avante Garde’ commission I approached various UK publications with my portfolio and slowly began to freelance for the Observer when Gary woodhouse was the picture editor beginning with the lowly businessman of the week photographs. then slowly expanding into photographing the full range of the performance arts with including 15 years freelancing for English National Opera.

Key Projects:
*Elke Neidhardt’s production of the Adelaide ‘Ring Cycle’ for SOSA over a 10-day period
*Venice – a self-funded project inspired by my first overseas commission (1979) to photograph the ‘Avant Garde’ in Italy
*English National Opera – 15 years coverage
*The Leukaemia Foundation fund raiser
*Wellcome Foundation exhibition following the King’s Cross disaster
*Fundraising poster for the UK Neurofibromatosis Association
*A Colourful Life in Black and White – Exhibition and Book
*Boxers Nuns and Catholic - Exhibition

View all images by Sue Adler

Hackney Empire, London, UK;
Credit: Sue Adler / ArenaPAL


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