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2008/86/2 Photograph, black and white, Wolfgang Sievers at Red Bluff Cliffs, paper, photographed by Elizabeth (Liz) Gilliam, Sandringham, Victoria, Australia, 1988. Click to enlarge.

Photograph of Wolfgang Sievers by Elizabeth Gilliam

Sievers is one of Australia's most highly acclaimed 20th century industrial photographers. Drawing on his pre-WWII experiences in Gemany and Portugal, and his modernist / Bauhaus heritage, after his arrival in Australia in 1938, Sievers sought work as a commercial photographer, bringing to this task a special focus on man as part of modern industrial life.

Throughout his long and productive career in Australia, Sievers documented the fine detail of machinery as well as the enormous scale of …


Object No.


Object Statement

Photograph, black and white, Wolfgang Sievers at Red Bluff Cliffs, paper, photographed by Elizabeth (Liz) Gilliam, Sandringham, Victoria, Australia, 1988

Physical Description

Photographic print, black & white, Wolfgang Sievers at Red Bluff Cliffs, paper, Sandringham, Victoria, photograph by Elizabeth (Liz) Gilliam, Sandringham, Victoria, Australia, 1988

Black and white photographic portrait of Wolfgang Sievers. Sievers wears a boldly patterned batik shirt and poses for the camerar on a cliff edge above the ocean. Text written in blue and black ink on the reverse side of the print offers information on both the subject and the photographer.


'WOLFGANG SIEVERS / (illegible) STREET / SANDRINGHAM, VICTORIA, 3191 / AUSTRALIAN / (illegible)' is printed in blue ink on the reverse side of the photograph,



252 mm


202 mm



The photograph was taken by Elizabeth (Liz) Gilliam (b. 1942) in Sandringham, Victoria, Australia.

Liz says 'Regarding this photo. The negatives are dated 19/5/88. I have a feeling that is the date I processed the film, and the photos were taken a few days earlier around 15/5/88. These photos belong to a project that I initiated myself, which ended up being an exhibition called Double Exposure in September 1988, at Artists Space Gallery in Fitzroy (run by Wes Placek and his wife Sophie). In 1987 I was fairly new to photography having built a darkroom in my studio and trained myself after deciding I was not cut out to be an art teacher. Without consciously formulating it as such, it turned out to be a way of finding a peer group as a few of my subjects became friends, although they were approached because they came from a migrant background (hence the name). I showed the photos to Wes Placek who was one of my subjects and he offered to exhibit the whole series (about 85 small portraits from memory) It was reviewed favourably by Beatrice Faust and the State Library of Victoria bought prints of the entire series. I still have all the original exhibition prints. This week a few of them are in an exhibition opening March 1 at the Monash Gallery called In A Different Light: artists portrayed.

Wolfgang Sievers was probably the most well known photographer that I contacted. He was almost a legend but I looked him up in the phone book and he seemed to quite like the idea and so I went down to Sandringham and met him. He was very easy to get on with, still I was a bit a tense in front of such an accomplished photographer but somehow it went reasonably well. (I say reasonably because some of the photos are terrible but I did get a few good ones), and this is the one we both liked best, he looks a bit heroic and that was how I saw him but warm and down to earth and without any sort of pretension.

We took this photo on the cliffs at Sandringham, quite close to where he lived, at his suggestion, he said it was one of his favourite places to go and look at the sea. He seemed more relaxed here than in his study where I took the other photos. I loved his house, it seemed very well cared for and I found out as I got to know him it was very important to him. It was a large old fashioned white painted weatherboard with an upstairs balcony overlooking rather wild garden. Wolfgang became something of a mentor for me at that time.

Altogether I took 2 rolls of film (24 shots) on my old Hasselblad, I hadn't had it long and was just getting used to it. I still have the post card with the portrait and showing the stamp Australia Post issued with one of Wolfgang Sievers most famous images. Also the letter from Australia Post asking permission to use it and a photocopy of the Age 1988 review of Double Exposure which was very favourable but Beatrice Faust singled out his photo as the only one that was not a good likeness (obviously he disagreed there).'

Source: Elizabeth Gilliam, email correspondence with the curator, Anne-Marie Van de Ven, 28 February, 2008.



This portrait of Sievers was used by Australia Post on a postcard commemorating '150 years of photography' . The stamps released at that time included Wolfgang Siever's 'Gears for the Mining Industry' of 1967 and Max Dupain's 'Sunbather' of 1937. Photographic print given to Wolfgang Sievers by the photographer.

Photographer Wolfgang (Mim) Sievers AO (b Berlin 18 September 1913, arrived Australia 1938, died 7 August 2007)
1933: Attended Contempora School of Applied Arts, an offshoot of the Bauhaus following its closure.
1934/35: Emigrated to Portugal.
1935: Rejoined Contempora School of Applied Arts in Berlin, first as a student then as a teacher of photography until 1938.
1936: Introduced to modern architecture by Erich Mendelsohn
1938: Called up to the Nazi Luftwaffe for service as aerial photographer, escaped to England on day of recruitment, arrived Australia, August 1938
1942-1946: 4 years voluntary service in the Australian Army
1946: Re-opened studio - this time at No 9 Collins St, Melbourne
1953: 'New Visions' joint exhibition with Helmut Newton in Melbourne
1988-1992: Exhibition 'The Life & Work of Wolfgang Sievers' NGA travelling exhibition
1992: Film Australia 'Master Photographers of Australia'
1997: Hall of Fame Fuji ACMP Aust Photographers collection. Works feature in National Gallery of Australia 'The Europeans: Emigre artists in Australia 1930-1960' exhibition.
2000: Jorge Calado, A fotografia de Wolfgang Sievers 1933-1993 (The photography of Wolfgang Sievers 1933-1993), published in Portugal.
2007: Many insitutions, including the National Gallery of Australia hold significant collections of Wolfgang Sievers photographs, however the vast majority of his archive is now held by the State Library of Victoria and the National Library of Australia.


Credit Line

Gift of Wolfgang Sievers, 2008

Acquisition Date

7 May 2008

Cite this Object


Photograph of Wolfgang Sievers by Elizabeth Gilliam 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 October 2021, <>


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