email: mfrexrocky@gmail.com

I really don’t have any idea about photography but I take pictures. I go to a lot of places where I shouldn’t be,  sometimes I have to run. I  photograph ordinary people how they are living today. ~Mervyn Fitzhenry

Image Sizes

30x40cm – 12 x 16 in.

40x50cm – 16 x 20 in.

(Printed on Silver Gelatin Paper Fibre Base)

Merv’s images have been published in many books and journals and have won numerous awards in Australia and overseas.

They have been displayed in Video S.B.S Television, Time Magazine, Power House Museum, Maritime of N.S.W., Contemporary Art Gallery N.S.W., State Library of N.S.W. and private collectors.


Article from Australian Camera Craft, Director Paul Curtis

Negotiating picture portfolios for Camera Craft isn’t always easy. But it’s fun. We’re always proud of some of the top photographers we’ve brought you over the last nine years. The lack of an open cheque book has not precluded us from doing deals with photographers such as that American king of photography, Ansel Adams, and even British royals such as Lord Snowdon, Lord Lichfield and Prince Andrew. We owe much to their generosity and willingness to help our readers. But nothing has given me more satisfaction and pride than obtaining this selection of pictures by Mervyn Fitzhenry, wharfie of Sydney.

And I must confess none of the other deals were more difficult! Many Australian photographic exhibition goers have become familiar with the name Mervyn Fitzhenry and the startling frankness of his pictures. But the man himself has remained something of an enigma.

Merv comes from a working class family and lives in a working class suburb, and it was the old and the homeless that he confronted in the street all his life. I used to live in Redfern, and then moved to Newtown. In both suburbs it’s the same. The quality of his pictures could win the fellowship of any society going, but he ‘just doesn’t believe in all that bullshit’.

But at the time I did not realise he was not only a former boxing champion but also the holder of a karate black belt!

Now Merv’s pictures are people and life, Life in the raw. Whereas we have all been fascinated with the seamier side of life and the poor in our community, our photographs of them are usually voyeuristic, taken on the sly as little sneaked glimpses, the eyes of both subject and photographer hastily averted. Merv’s camera approaches his subject in the same direct manner. The camera angles are strong, uncompromising and could almost be confrontational except for the unusual sense of rapport between subject and photographer that comes shining through.

The dynamic use of black and white creates poignant story-telling pictures are powerful enough to move even the most hardened cynic. The work of Mervyn Fitzhenry has become a valuable social document recording the values of today’s society for generation to come.


Article Life in the Raw from Charles Dupont, Observer News

Mervyn L Fitzhenry in his youth was an apprentice jockey, then a boxer. From 1954 he was a wharfie. From 1971, while still a wharfie, he was also a photographer.

He has little time for the artifice of most modern photographers, preferring the direct, natural style of the Magnum photographers. He laments the fact that he is “probably the last” of that type of photographer working in Australia.

The exhibition of his work, Life In The Raw, at Tom Nelson Hall, indicates that Mervin Fitzhenry is a very talented photographer. The 130 or so photographs in the exhibition, in black and white, show a man who is entirely comfortable with his medium and anxious to express himself through it.

He began with a second hand Pentax camera, doing nude studies. These range from convention art studies to the provocative series Rolfe And Family, taken at Nimbin in the ’70s.

There is great compassion and understanding in these photographs, but there is not a trace of pessimism.

Merv Fitzhenry would have made a marvellous press photographer. His series of six photos, First Topless Girls – Bondi 1973, captures the varying emotions and actions as a group of young women defy authority and sunbake topless to the great displeasure of three angry beach inspectors.

Many of Merv Fitzhenry’s photos have won international awards. Most of his photos were taken with a cheap automatic Nikon; he always uses a 50mm lens, even for his remarkable portrait work. The heavy grain effect in the more recent photos comes from using 400ASA film but exposing and printing it as 800ASA.


Article The Australian Friday, March 29 1996

Mervyn Fitzhenry’s wonderfully emotive shot of the impoverished surrounds of invalid pensioners in an inner-city doss house is a classic.

Fitzhenry’s photographs of a family of heroin addicts, including their newborn baby, give a sense of inevitable tragedy.

Fitzhenry’s sad little family is emptied of any real emotion. The visitor to this large and engrossing exhibition is made aware of the way that camera and film, as well as technique, works with the photographer’s eye to make the shot.

Written by Joanna Mendelssohn


Article Photo Documentary – Recent Images of Everyday Life, Exhibition Preview.

A new exhibition of photographs at the State Library of New South Wales shows for the first time some of the extraordinary images acquired by the Library in the past few years.

Alan Davies, Curator of Photographs, has selected 150 photographs by 14 photographers from the Library’s collection to present a range of images showing everything from birth through to death. Some of the photographs are shocking, others sad, but all are an honest look at society today. He writes here about the art of documentary photography.

Documentary photographs inform and educate. They are part of that much wider ability of the photograph to simply record. Documentary photographers strive to render something of enduring interest from the ephemera of everyday life and ordinary spectacle. In an ever-changing world, the ability of the camera to freeze a moment and give us the vicarious experience of another home and place is without equal. But it is not a perfect likeness.

Unfortunately, the camera tends to capture some subjects more than others. People like to record happy events and more unusual occurrences. Commonplace activities and those things regarded as distasteful seem not to be photographed. Just as colonial artists failed to record convicts in their early depictions of Sydney, so too did our local photographers of the 1930s fail to record the social effects of the Great Depression. There are barely a dozen photographs showing the trauma of the time in the collections of the Library. It seems every camera in the nation was turned towards the new Sydney Harbour Bridge. Its construction is recorded rivet by rivet.

Disappointingly, most photographers continued to ignore the ordinary and the unpleasant. Mervyn Fitzhenry is one of the very few photographers willing to spotlight human misery. His shocking photographs of a city dosshouse in 1993 records a social evil that would pass unseen by most people. The photograph seems unreal, because most of us have never seen such a place. But looking at the photograph has made us eyewitness. We are forced to believe it, because we believe our own eyes.

Merv won the two Viewer’s Choice Awards.


Curator: Ross Gibson
UTS Gallery – SYDNEY
Presented by: Patrick Corrigan AM

“My feeling is intensified by the adjacent print.  Mervyn Fitzhenry’s old man with cat (1996).  Man and cat sit on separate arm chairs in a bare formerly grand room.  His busted shoes are unlaced, the cat is poised and delicate like an incarnation from another lifetime. (But we suspect it was she who ripped the stuffing from the arm of his ragged chair)”

Ross Gibson UTS Gallery – Sydney


Photos by:  Mervyn L Fitzhenry

FRONTLINE:  Ambulance officers attempt to revive an overdose victim found in a back alley in Sydney’s Redfern late last month.  Australia like dozens of other western countries is grappling with the complex emotive issue of heroin addiction trying to allay community fears and the private pain of drug dependence with responsible public policy.

BY:  Susan Horsburgh – Time Magazine