Richard Woldendorp 1927-2023


Artists from the St John of God Health Care Art Collection: Richard Woldendorp, 2019, 15.11 mins, by Lyn DiCiero, Artist’s Chronicle. 

At the age of 96, Richard Woldendorp AM, died in April this year. Aerial photographer extraordinaire, Woldendorp showed us the beauty of Australia from the skies, in an era long before drones and digital cameras. A State Living Treasure and five-times WA Canon Professional Photographer of the Year and ACMP Hall of Fame inductee, his stunning aerial images are seen in 27-plus books and were shown in 52 solo exhibitions over his career. 
In 2019, St John of God Health Care commissioned the Artist’s Chronicle produce a short documentary on the artist, whose works are held in its art collection. The film was shown alongside a major exhibition of his works at St John of God Murdoch Hospital. Despite being 92, Woldendorp relished the idea of being involved, as well as the opportunity to fly again with Jan Ende, his pilot, and friend, for over 50 years.
His image making process looked simple – judge when an interesting scene was approaching below, open the plane window and whack the camera out, all the while keeping the camera strap around his neck. That was where any simplicity ended, as his images were nothing less than breathtaking. Both he and Ende flew around Australia several times, searching for, and finding, the exquisite in the Australian landscape from the air. His exhibition at Murdoch in 2019, Abstract Earth, said it all – he was an artist who used the camera as his medium to create abstract images of the world below to stunning effect.
Born in Utrecht, The Netherlands in 1927, Woldendorp showed an interest in painting and drawing from an early age, and eventually studied commercial art. Joining the Dutch army at the age of nineteen he was posted to Indonesia. After three years his company was moved out and being young servicemen, were encouraged by the Australian government to apply for immigration and so  he decided to emigrate to the warmer climate of Australia in 1951.
In 1955 Woldendorp planned a holiday back to Holland and bought his first camera, a folding Voeghtlander 6×9 which was the beginning of his long association with photography. He became fascinated with the camera as a creative tool. Max Dupain said of his work: “(Richard’s photographs) delight the eye as beautiful symbols of the Australian landscape and indulge our senses in enough mystery to last a life time. Yet they are not a denial of actuality.”
Richard Woldendorp is survived by his wife Lyn, and daughters Eva, Gemma and Yolanta. 

Pink Lake, north-west of Esperance, WA, (1988) by Richard Woldendorp. 

Plough patterns near Narrabri, NSW, (2004) by Richard Woldendorp. 

Sand Dune, Windorah, Queensland, (1994) by Richard Woldendorp. 

Images courtesy Lyn Woldendorp. 


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