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Farewell to Penny Tweedie

The distinguished Walkley award-winning photographer Penny Tweedie died at age 70 on January 14.

She will be farewelled by her Australian friends and colleagues at a wake in Sydney on February 20, 2011.

Tweedie was born in Hawkhurst in Kent, England in 1940 died at Hawkhurst on January 14. She was a dual citizen and lived for some years in Balmain and also in Canberra and the Northern Territory.

Hundreds of photographers, artists, journalists and friends of the British Australian woman best known for her luminous photography of Australian Aboriginals will say goodbye at the Balmain Town Hall in Darling St at 1.30 to 4.30 pm.

An obituary in The Australian, remembered her as a person who “always tended to be where the action was”.

While working in India in 1971, she was commissioned by The Sunday Times to cover the Bangladesh war. Although mistakenly arrested as a spy and imprisoned in squalid conditions by the Indian army, she got out in time to secure a set of shocking photos of Bangladeshi intellectuals rounded up and murdered in brickyards by the retreating Pakistanis.

It was while covering that war that she was summoned to a victory celebration outside Dhaka. She realised that some very frightened prisoners, accused of being collaborators, were about to be bayoneted to death for the benefit of the foreign press. She and a small group of other photographers refused to participate: some of those who stayed, arguing that they had a duty to record the killings, won prizes for their work.

With 50 years of significant international photography work her death is a severe loss to her friends and also her family and most of all to the world of photography. She is best known in Britain for her work with Shelter, the charity for homeless people, her war photography in south Asia and Israel and Vietnam as well as her portraits of Twiggy, Colonel Gaddafi, John Lennon and Yoko Ono (amongst others) but in Australia she will be remembered for the iconic photos of Gough Whitlam pouring sand into the hand of traditional owner Vincent Lingiari when the Gurindji were finally given land rights in 1975 and also for her Timor photos just before the Indonesian invasion that same year.

Her photo of ceremonially painted Aboriginal man Tom Noytuna with an orange Telstra phone contrasted with his white body paint is unforgettable and was used as the cover for the invitation to her book launch of Spirit of Arnhem Land in 1998.

See more of her work through the Wildlight agency.

Call 0438 889 032 or email [email protected] for more details on Tweedie’s wake.

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Image detail: Gary Ramage