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Short, Gordon Herbert (1912–1959)

by Kate Evans

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Gordon Herbert Short (1912-1959), press photographer, was born on 23 April 1912 at Petersham, Sydney, youngest of four children of Herbert George Short, a civil servant from England, and his native-born wife Lilian, née Greer. Gordon attended Stanmore Public School and in 1928 became a messenger in the pictorial department of the Sydney Morning Herald. Known as 'Shorty', he formally began a cadetship in 1930 and moved quickly from the duties of the darkroom into general photography. He covered the 1934 royal tour of the Duke of Gloucester, from Melbourne to Sydney. His photograph of the duke opening the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park was the largest photograph that the Herald had ever published, wrapped around the entire paper. As the 1930s advanced so did his skill.

Although he was an Anglican, on 20 November 1937 at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, Short married Eileen Margaret Phillips, a stenographer; their six children were raised in their mother's faith. In April 1943 he was released by John Fairfax & Sons Ltd to act as an official war photographer with the Department of Information, for which he covered fighting in the Pacific and New Guinea. The S.M.H. persistently tried to get him back, and succeeded in June 1945—in time for him to photograph victory celebrations on the streets of Sydney.

As a senior photographer Short enjoyed some choice in the types of stories he covered and tended to do the day shifts. His skilful use of the large format Graflex Speed Graphic (with its supply of spare plates) worked well for his carefully constructed shots. He was an expert at the 'roving story', capturing its action and warmth. Well dressed, with a trim moustache, he moved easily in the society haunts of Prince's and Romano's restaurants. Connie Robertson, editor of the S.M.H.'s women's supplement, had confidence in his ability, respected his belief in the dignity of the press, and understood his refusal to use tradesmen's entrances. He was a dynamic character, who could easily dominate a room.

Although fiercely competitive with his rivals on the Daily Telegraph, Short regularly met them for a drink at the Journalists' Club or nearest pub. He was passionate about photography, the Royal Australian Navy, and the snow: he covered fleet exercises and carried out public-relations assignments for the navy, and, on holidays at the snowfields, photographed his sons under the name 'Long', an example of his sense of humour. Short accompanied Queen Elizabeth II's gruelling tour (1954) from Fiji to New Zealand and around Australia. His photographic images of the young Queen and Prince Philip gained an enthusiastic response. He covered other significant events, including the 1953 British atomic-bomb tests at Woomera, South Australia, and the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

At the end of 1957 Short suffered an undiagnosed illness. After a long convalescence, he returned to work, but died of ascending polyneuritis on 28 October 1959 at Royal North Shore Hospital and was cremated. His wife, and their daughter and five sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Souter, Company of Heralds (Melb, 1981)
  • V. Lawson, Connie Sweetheart (Melb, 1990)
  • W. Irving, The Pictures Tell the Story (Syd, 1995)
  • K. Evans, 'The Shadow of the Photographer—Images on Paper', in A. Curthoys and J. Schultz (eds), Journalism (Brisb, 1999)
  • Journalist, Dec 1959, p 3
  • John Fairfax Holdings Ltd archives, Sydney
  • private information.

Citation details

Kate Evans, 'Short, Gordon Herbert (1912–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/short-gordon-herbert-11687/text20887, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 20 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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