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<p>Rick Stevens</p>

Rick Stevens

Rick Stevens's iconic image of Gough Whitlam at the launch of his 1972 campaign.

Framing History: Gough’s Time

When Gough Whitlam launched his election campaign in Blacktown 40 years ago, a nervous young photographer waiting in the wings captured a defining image of the man who would be prime minister.

Familiar faces dotted the crowd, older and thicker around the jowls in some cases, but all shining with a certain kind of adoration, visible even in the low lights of the Bowman Hall in Sydney’s outer suburb of Blacktown on Tuesday.

This was a room full of truly True Believers, celebrating the anniversary of the start of Labor’s “It’s Time” campaign.

Framing History: The Right Place for It's Time

The campaign would launch Edward Gough Whitlam AC QC to his place as the 21st Prime Minister of Australia, starting with the words “Men and women of Australia…”.

Whitlam, now too frail for such activities, filled the room nevertheless, via images projected onto a screen at the front.

All of those photographs were taken in the same hall on that historic night. The author of those pictures is Rick Stevens, who would go on to be a celebrated photojournalist — but in November 1972 he was a junior photographer with The Sydney Morning Herald.

The young, nervous Stevens was more at home taking pictures then known as ‘socials’ (pictures of people out socialising) than covering news events.

Stevens hid in the side-wings of the stage and, from there, took the definitive picture of a woman kissing Gough’s hand.

There is a papal quality to the image.

Former prime minister Bob Hawke, former senior minister Frank Crean, and entertainer Col Joye are just a few of the recognisable faces in the photograph. Hawke and Joye both returned this week to pay homage; Crean was represented by his son, the federal minister Simon Crean.

In the video above, from our series Framing History, Rick Stevens tells The Global Mail how a knot in his stomach drove him to capture a picture which won him the first of many of his awards during his long and distinguished career.

10 comments on this story
by Patrick Hamilton

Great frame of a great man by a great photographer.....

November 14, 2012 @ 9:11pm
by Sas Battine

Enjoyed this piece immensely Mike, cheers.

November 14, 2012 @ 10:38pm
by John

The Greatest Australian of All Time.

November 15, 2012 @ 6:23am
by Leonard Tyler

Patrick Hamilton's comment said it all except that you're to be congratulated Mike for presenting an important piece of history, so innovatively.
By Leonard Tyler

November 15, 2012 @ 2:21pm
by Des Carroll

That's Clyde Cameron next to Bob Hawke. Still good stuff!

November 15, 2012 @ 3:55pm
by Susan Carty

We owe so much to Gough Whitlam. Best Prime Minister we have ever had, a true visionary badly treated by his own and others - the last of the True Believers. A truly great Australian.

November 15, 2012 @ 7:56pm
by John Swainston

Like all iconic images, Rick's picture tells a story: " What's going on here?"
Subject, adoration, support of the power-brokers (identifiable), excitement, energy and sense of movement.
And it was seen from a perspective others didn't see. Thanks for the interview Mike, and the great picture, Rick.

November 16, 2012 @ 8:26am
Show previous 7 comments
by Neil Summers

Really very interesting shame about Mike's eye line

November 18, 2012 @ 2:58pm
by Dayle Smith

As a man who won 2 elections in 3 years, only to have the last taken from him by Kerr, much of Whitlam's really ground-breaking legislation only got thru because of the courage he displayed in forcing a joint sitting of both houses of parliament after his second election victory in 1973/4.
Much of what we now take for granted, the Seas and submerged Act, the Race Discrimination Act got thru in that only joint sitting of both houses. It is a pity that Rudd did not emulate Whitlam's political courage when he could have, before the 'palace coup' occurred.

February 23, 2013 @ 12:52pm
by Dayle Smith

Sorry I omitted a crucial word: it was the Seas and Submerged Lands Act that went through the joint sitting.

I left a word out Lands and did not capitalise Submerged


Dayle Smith

February 23, 2013 @ 5:18pm
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