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Hollick, Ruth Miriam (1883–1977)

by Barbara Hall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Ruth Miriam Hollick (1883-1977), photographer, was born on 17 March 1883 at Williamstown, Melbourne, youngest of thirteen children of English-born parents Harry Ebenezer Hollick, civil servant, and his wife Frances Jane, née Cole. While studying at the National Gallery school of design in 1902-06, Ruth struck up a friendship with her teacher Frederick McCubbin. About 1908 she bought a small motorcar and promoted herself in rural Victoria as a freelance photographer specializing in portraits of families and children. She toured the Riverina and the Western District of Victoria, mostly working outdoors with a field camera.

World War I brought the most productive stage of Hollick's career. She operated from her parents' home in suburban Moonee Ponds, assisted by Dorothy Izard, her personal and professional partner. Hollick's work assumed a confident stylishness, characterized by her dramatic composition and free use of light; it became the trademark of her social and fashion photography, much of which was used in advertising and by the Bulletin and Lone Hand.

When Mina Moore retired in 1918, Hollick moved into her studios in the Auditorium Building, Collins Street. As her reputation and business grew, she took an entire floor in Chartres House for reception and studios, and Dorothy devised an ingenious shuttle for plates and prints from the darkroom next door. Between 1920 and 1928 Hollick and Pegg Clarke, who specialized in gardens and landscapes, were Melbourne's leading photographers and shared most of the commissions for the Home and Australian magazines. They were also firm friends (from art-school days) in a quartet which included Izard and Clarke's partner, the painter Dora Wilson.

In 1928 Hollick held a solo exhibition of her portraits of children. Next year she was the only woman whose work was accepted for the Melbourne Exhibition of Pictorial Photography. In 1929 and 1930 she was represented in the pictorial sections of both the Melbourne and Adelaide camera clubs, and her work was shown at least once with the Photographic Society of New South Wales. She exhibited at the London Salon of Photography (1920) and the colonial exhibitions of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain (1925 and 1927); in 1932 she was one of six Melbourne Camera Club members who showed in London at the Amateur Photographer Overseas Exhibition. By then she was said to have won six silver and numerous bronze plaques in Australia and abroad.

Hollick had no formal training and her style was the result of experimentation. Her particular skill in using available light probably derived from her years on the road, making the best of each situation and being confident of every plate taken. She was 'a hard worker though not a businesswoman: she enjoyed spending, good dressing and parties'.

In the Depression Hollick gave up the city studio and worked again from Moonee Ponds, while also making country trips. With Dorothy, she toured Europe for the first time in 1950. Eight years later she retired. She died on 7 April 1977 at Sandringham and was cremated with Christian Science forms. Collections of her glass plates and original prints are held by the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Gallery of Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia (Melb, 1955)
  • G. Newton, Silver and Grey (Syd, 1980)
  • B. Hall et al, Australian Women Photographers, 1890-1950, exhibition catalogue (Melb, 1981)
  • B. Hall and J. Mather, Australian Women Photographers 1840-1960 (Melb, 1986)
  • Herald (Melbourne), 3 Nov 1928
  • Argus (Melbourne), 31 Oct 1928.

Citation details

Barbara Hall, 'Hollick, Ruth Miriam (1883–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hollick-ruth-miriam-10521/text18673, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 October 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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