Thirty years is a long time and forty even longer

I missed this, unfortunately, as I rarely attend night-time things these days, especially in Sydney. I had been invited:

Its a long time ago, but you taught me for a few years at Sydney High – 1985 and 1986 – for 2 unit English. Memorable times, including the infamous “shit poem” you asked a friend to come in and read for us, and our universal dislike of Dickens’ Great Expectations!

My colleagues and I are having a 30 year reunion on Saturday August 13, 2016 – we’d like to invite you if you’d like to come.

The inviter is on the right, a former teaching colleague on the left:


Apparently a debate on the topic “It is better to live fast and wild in middle age than in high school” was part of the night’s proceedings. They were very good at debating, that class of 1986. Some have gone on to considerable eminence in related fields. I’m told  “over fifty-five ex-students and a small number of teachers calling ‘present, sir’ at the Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst on Saturday 13 August.”  I am sorry I could not be with them, but am having fun guessing, occasionally successfully, who is who in the photos.



Some of these people may recall this:


See More “Neil’s Decades” – 10: 1986 again.


That’s part of a Sydney Boys High staff photo from 1986. I am back row centre. The colleague in the top picture above is also in this group. Can you pick him?

And on Sydney High, especially 1986, I have posted a lot. Just a few examples: Class of 1986 please note: you’re getting old! (2011), More “Neil’s Decades” –8: 1956 — 1, Expedition to Surry Hills – 3 – Sydney Boys HighMore “Neil’s Decades” — 1, I return to teaching — 1985.

Now forty years on: More “Neil’s Decades” — 3: 1976.


That really took me back. You see, at Wollongong High in 1975-1976 I was teaching [Year 8] Photography as well as English. You will observe the two top right copies of “The Gleam”, WHS’s magazine/yearbook. Those covers are my work I do believe. The insides too represented quite a departure from what had gone before. If I recall correctly we were gifted offset printing by Illawarra County Council, the local electricity authority at that time who had a new printery with not enough for it to do. The scope it gave us was marvellous. I do seem to recall playing a bit of a trick on the student editorial committee – the 1976 one, I think – by submitting anonymously some meaningless but trendy-sounding poems, which they published. I no longer have copies of these mags. I’d love to check the insides again!

One of my great mentors in Photography was John Williams. His Obituary was recently in the Sydney Morning Herald.

John Williams was the first head of photography at Sydney College of the Arts and discovered his passion through a photographic catalogue called the Family of Man given to him by his wife in 1958. The Museum of Modern Art exhibition, with its documentary photography vision of universal humanity, toured Australia in 1959 at the height of the Cold War and its forceful images influenced a generation of young photographers…

Film, theatre and visual arts emerged as legitimate places for Australians to make a living and new schools were established. Within five years photography was booming and Williams was at the heart of it.

John was then reviewing for photography magazines and newspapers and running a WEA course on photography. It was here that he met his second wife, Ingeborg Tyssen, a nurse who had arrived in Australia as a child from The Netherlands. A brilliant photographer, she joined him when he moved to Melbourne in 1974 and together they set up The Photographers Gallery with Paul Cox and Rod McNichol.

Tyssen and Williams returned to Sydney in 1976, when he became foundation head of photography and film at the new Sydney College of the Arts…

I gave an account of my part in one of those residential WEA courses in Towns I’ve stayed in 3 — Hill End NSW.

I passed through several times in the late 60s and early 70s, always stopping for a while. It is still quite a hairy drive in, and the pub is most inviting. In 1975 I was at Bathurst doing a photography course with John Williams and Ingeborg Tyssen*. Hill End/Sofala was one of our targets. I asked an old guy in the pub, after buying him a beer, if I could photograph him. “Guess so,” he said. “Snowdon did last week…” (John Williams told me I was a good second-rate photographer, which I found rather pleasing, coming from him.)…

* Sad to note that Ingeborg Tyssen passed away in 2002, not yet 60 years of age.

Do look at John Williams’s work.