Austria 1902 – Australia 1985
Encounter [Shona Dunlop and Hilary Napier in 'Seastudy']
[Encounter (Two women in chiffon dresses, touching hands)] c.1947 Description: (Two women in chiffon dresses, touching hands)
Place made: Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph
Margaret Michaelis arrived in Sydney a few days after the declaration of World War II. She worked initially as a housekeeper and in 1940 opened Photo-studio in Castlereagh Street in downtown Sydney. During the difficult war years, while experiencing a continuous and ‘very, very sharp loneliness’, she slowly built up her business. She specialised in portraiture; many of her subjects were European and Jewish refugees who, like her, had only recently settled in Sydney. She also frequently photographed those involved in the arts and worked closely with the Bodenwieser Ballet.
For Michaelis the interest in the psychology of her sitters remained crucial, marking a significant link to her Austrian past. In her portraits the hands and face were particularly important as energy centres.
Margaret Michaelis’s long photographic career came to an end in 1952 with the closure of her studio. She married Albert Sachs in 1960 and lived in Melbourne until the end of her life.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra