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Laurence Craddock Le Guay (1916–1990)

by Anna Ridley

This article was published:

Laurence Craddock Le Guay  (1916–1990), photographer, was born on 25 December 1916 at Chatswood, Sydney, son of locally born parents Charles Sidney Le Guay, company secretary, and his wife Doris Alma, née Usher.  Laurence’s interest in photography began while he was at school, and was further developed when he met Harold Cazneaux .  In 1935 Le Guay commenced work as an assistant at Dayne Studio.  Soon dissatisfied with portraiture, in 1937 he opened his own studio, where he specialised in illustrative and fashion photography.  He joined the Sydney Camera Circle that year and began exhibiting at various national photographic salons.  Next year he became a member of the Contemporary Camera Groupe.

On 9 October 1940 Le Guay enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force as a photographer.  He travelled extensively around the Mediterranean while attached to No.451 Squadron (1941-43) and to the RAAF liaison office at headquarters, Royal Air Force, Middle East (1943-45).  Commissioned in December 1943, he was promoted to flying officer in June 1944 and posted to RAAF overseas headquarters, London, in April 1945.  In addition to his official photography, he took many images showing the impact of war on local people.  His service imbued him with a love of travel and adventure.  He was demobilised in Sydney in January 1946.

Next year Le Guay returned to studio work with John Nisbett.  They were pioneers in the use of outdoor locations for fashion photography, with movement, colour and a sense of fun integral to their work.  The official photographer for the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition in 1947-48, he also undertook commissions for the Australian Geographical Society.  Another assignment was a trip to New Guinea where he took his most famous non-fashion image, 'New Guinea Natives'.  This photograph was included in Edward Steichen’s Family of Man exhibition in New York in 1955.  Le Guay had married Ann Melanie Warmington, a fashion advertiser, on 22 July 1948 at St Michael’s Church of England, Rose Bay and Vaucluse.

Involved with many publications, in 1946 Le Guay helped to establish Contemporary Photography, the first photographic magazine in Australia that was independent of photographic suppliers.  He was awarded (1963) an Australian Photographic Society Commonwealth Medal and made a fellow (1964) of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain.  In 1972 he joined David Moore and others who were planning the Australian Centre for Photography.  Le Guay’s attitude towards photography was complex:  he tirelessly encouraged young Australian photographers while saying that he hesitated to call the practice of photography a profession.  'I encounter odd pangs of guilt . . . that I’ve never done a day’s work in my life.'

Remembered by Edmund Capon as 'a modern-day swashbuckler', his face weather-beaten and 'wrinkled by decades of mirth and mischievousness', Le Guay was a witty companion with a zest for life.  Divorced in 1967, he retired in 1970 and pursued his long-held interest in sailing by undertaking a two-year voyage on board his 42-foot yacht Eclipse, later publishing his adventures in Sailing Free (1975).  His other publications included Sydney Harbour (1966) and Australian Aborigines (1980).  He died on 2 February 1990 on board Therapy at Pittwater, Sydney, and was cremated.  One of his daughters had died in 1975; the other survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Newton, Silver and Grey, 1980
  • G. Newton, Shades of Light, 1988
  • A. Willis, Picturing Australia, 1988
  • P. Law, The Antarctic Voyage of HMAS Wyatt Earp, 1995
  • Woman (Sydney), 1 November 1948, p 19
  • People (Sydney), 28 March 1951, p 46
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 February 1990, p 12
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 'Good Weekend', 17 March 1990, p 18
  • A9300, item Le Guay L C (National Archives of Australia)
  • H. de Berg, interview with L. Le Guay (ts, 1976, National Library of Australia)

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Anna Ridley, 'Le Guay, Laurence Craddock (1916–1990)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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