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Carol Joyce Jerrems (1949–1980)

by Helen Ennis

This article was published:

Carol Joyce Jerrems (1949-1980), photographer, was born on 14 March 1949 at Ivanhoe, Melbourne, third child of Victorian-born parents Eric Alfred Jerrems, clerk to a stock-and-station agent, and his wife Joyce Mary, née Jacobs. Carol studied photography at Prahran Technical School in 1967-70, graduating with a diploma of art and design. An outstanding student, she won the Walter Lindrum scholarship (1968), the Institute of Australian Photographers award (1970) and first prize in the Kodak Students Photographic Competition (1971). After obtaining a certificate (1971) from the Technical Teachers' College, Hawthorn, she taught part time in Melbourne (Coburg and Heidelberg technical schools), Sydney (Hornsby and Meadowbank technical colleges) and Hobart (Tasmanian School of Art) until 1979.

From the outset, Jerrems was interested in the expressive possibilities of the photographic medium, declaring that she was 'an artist whose tool of expression is the camera'. She concentrated on photographing people; her subjects included her students, and her friends and acquaintances. Her first photographs were documentary in style, but by the mid-1970s the scenes she photographed were often contrived. She used a non-exploitative approach, based on the consent of her subjects. For Jerrems, photography had a crucial social role: 'the society is sick and I must help change it'. Her photographs were a means of 'bringing people together' and offered affirmative views of certain aspects of contemporary life. With Virginia Fraser, she published A Book About Australian Women (Melbourne, 1974), to which she contributed the photographs.

One-person exhibitions of her work were held at the National Gallery of Victoria (1973), the Arts Council Gallery, Sydney (1974), and the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney (1976 and 1978). She also participated in numerous group exhibitions. They included 'Erotica' (with Henry Talbot) at Brummels Gallery of Photography, Melbourne (1972), 'Womanvision' at the Sydney Filmakers Co-op (1973), and 'Heroes and Anti-Heroes' (with Rennie Ellis) and 'Four Australian Women', both at the Photographers Gallery, Melbourne, in 1975 and 1978 respectively. Macquarie University, Sydney, commissioned her in 1977 to produce a folio of photographs that expressed 'the spirit of the university'.

In 1975 Jerrems was awarded an overseas travel grant from the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council and an experimental film grant from the Australian Film Commission. Her 16-mm black-and-white film, Hangin' About, was completed in 1978. She also produced the publicity and production stills for In Search of Anna (1979), directed by Esben Storm.

For some years Jerrems practised yoga, which she also taught. The photographs she took in 1978 at the Satyananda Ashram, Mangrove Mountain, New South Wales, were among the last she exhibited. In 1979 she fell ill with Budd-Chiari syndrome. She died on 21 February 1980 at Prahran and was cremated. Her archive of photographs was donated to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

Although one critic regarded her work as uneven—'she took a casual approach'—Jerrems's talents as a photographer were widely recognized. With her camera 'firmly pointed at the heart of things', she produced a body of photographs that symbolized the hopes and aspirations of the counter-culture in Australia in the 1970s. The retrospective exhibition, 'Living in the 70s: Photographs by Carol Jerrems', mounted by the N.G.A., toured Australia in 1990-91.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Jenyns and H. Ennis (compiler), Living in the 70s: Photographs by Carol Jerrems, Australian National Gallery travelling exhibition, catalogue (Hob, 1990)
  • G. Newton, Shades of Light (Canb, 1988)
  • A-M. Willis, Picturing Australia (Syd, 1988)
  • C. Moore, Indecent Exposures (Syd, 1991)
  • Sunday Observer (Melbourne), 14 July 1974, 'Magazine'
  • Sun News-Pictorial (Melbourne), 12 July 1980
  • Age (Melbourne), 27 Aug 1991
  • National Gallery of Australia files
  • private information.

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Citation details

Helen Ennis, 'Jerrems, Carol Joyce (1949–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

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