Reflections: 150 Years of the Age

By: Foley, Steve -- Editor

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Reflections: 150 Years of the Age by Foley, Steve -- Editor
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New South Wales: Doubleday, 2004. 2.48 kg; VIII, 372 pages, indexed. Introductory essay "the cabbage patch that grew 1854-2004: a history by Geoffrey Blainey. The book considers politics, war, the city, witness, life, fashion, music, crime, culture and sport (although in Victoria how the last two can be separated?). With original colour illustrated slipcase. There is very slight rubbing to the bottom of the spine, otherwise the book shows no damage. The slipcase similarly shows no damage. "Geoffrey Blainey sets the scene. In 1854, Melbourne did not have buildings more than three storeys high. We had chopped most of the trees and the main objects on the skyline were deep-sea ships, their bare masts an exercise in geometry. Come October 17 of that year, Governor Sir Charles Hotham, looking very splendid, entered a new building in William Street. Then just before a rendering of the Hallelujah Chorus there was a formal presentation of a new newspaper, beautifully mounted and printed in gold. Price: Sixpence. It was the first edition of The Age. The august gentleman survived only a year. He caught a chill opening the Melbourne Gasworks and died, but how fascinated he would be to see this volume 150 years later. It is titled Reflections, edited by Steve Foley. Actually it is not a history of The Age as a newspaper. It is a history of Melbourne and Victoria as it unfolded, edition after edition through the years. No dull stuff here. It has the vibrancy, the immediacy that came from the witnesses, the reporters, the photographers, who were there at the moment. I can remember a chief of staff who used to say: "I only want reporters who have mud on their boots." There is much evidence of that. There are reprints of many famous front pages, but there is much more. There are more than 1000 illustrations and photographs in this book. There was a time when journalists liked to think themselves slightly superior to photographers. The truth is the other way round. Australian press photographers have few peers anywhere in the world. For example, there are pictures taken by the amazing Bruce Postle. I don't think I ever saw him take a picture on the straight and level. There is a remarkable shot where Postle was held by the ankles on top of the Manchester Unity building while he recorded 70,000 demonstrators against the Vietnam War in 1970. He has another picture of Tommy Woodcock, one-time trainer of Phar Lap. Woodcock, now old, is lying with racehorse Reckless. The picture tells everything. They are lookingat each other with total love. Neville Bowler's great picture would have to be in every collection. It is a reminder there was a time when Melbourne had a reputation for wet weather. This was the day in 1972 when Elizabeth Street was turned into a flooded fury. Bowler has his camera at ground level and the picture is so powerful you almost push the book away for fear of being drowned. Then one of the best pictures you will ever see is Simon O'Dwyer's recent shot of Omeo. We are in the hot summer when Omeo is surrounded by fire and it takes all kinds of faith not to believe any second the town will disappear in the furnace. It is the colour, the awful red glow, coupled with the clouds of black smoke that make the picture so great. There is a man in the foreground fleeing for his life. This is an ashes on boots picture. Reflections' themes - politics, war, city, witness, life, fashion, music, crime, culture and sport - come with essays by top Age writers such as Michael Gordon, Andrew Rule, Shaun Carney, Michael Shmith, Greg Baum and Jane Sullivan. There is also a 46-page introduction by Geoffrey Blainey. Blainey's style is simple and direct. He doesn't give us dry bones, but tells Melbourne's 150 years as a warm social history and he says much of the information came from the pages of The Age. Yes, in the very first edition, The Age reported that two of Melbourne's policemen had disappeared. Obvious where they had gone, they had absconded to the diggings, looking for gold. Ballarat, Bendigo, Beechworth, Castlemaine became grand places. Even in 1871 Ballarat was bigger than Perth, Hobart and possibly even Brisbane. In Bendigo they had managed to build an opera house that held more people than the present Sydney Opera House. Crowds used to gather outside the offices of The Age in Collins Street in times of crisis, whether it was a mine disaster or something more mundane such as a Test match. One of the worst days was May 11, 1915, when, on page eight, there was column after long column that listed the dead and wounded under the heading "Heroes of the Dardanelles". This is a good book, a credit to its editor and one that I, certainly, would be terrified to lend. " -- from the book review published in 2004. First Edition. Hardcover. Fine/No Jacket. Illus. by Photographic. Folio - over 12" - 15" tall. journalism -- Victoria.

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