Books & Literature

Book Review: Stop the Presses! by Russell McPhedran, with Norman Tasker

A snapshot of the second half of the 20th Century and a homage to the life of the Australian Hall of Fame journalistic photographer Russell McPhedran through a selection of his photographs and illuminating and humorous anecdotes.

Stop the Presses! Russell McPhedran’s Golden Age of Press Photography is a snapshot of the second half of the 20th Century; a homage to the life of the Australian Hall of Fame photographer Russell McPhedran; and a guide on how to master the skill of being in the right place at the right time.

Renowned photographer Russell McPhedran began his career in the 1960s at an age when morning and evening newspapers were ravenous and needed to be fed. It was a time when there was a risk that major moments in history could go uncaptured because, before the advent of smartphones, photographic skills and technology were scarce.

Having the intuition to be where it matters and the reflexes and keen artistic eye to capture those split-second moments on film was a priceless combination of skills.

McPhedran was so blessed with these talents that other lensmen followed him like a mythical Leprechaun that would invariably lead them to journalistic gold. Some of his scoops included the Munich Massacre and the Granville train tragedy.

Even when enmeshed within a press pack at major events, such as at the Olympics or royal visits, he still invariably managed to produce a shot that stood out from the rest.

By presenting a selection of McPhedran’s photographic portfolio and illuminating and humorous anecdotes, Stop the Presses! reveals the method behind the mystique. Sometimes it was simply a matter of luck, but rarely.

While the media market has changed in recent times, Stop the Presses! is essential reading for budding or amateur photographers looking to hone their skills.

With its depiction of so many key mainstream moments from recent history, Stop the Presses! is also an engaging and accessible read for all. While it is worthy of purchase just to flick through the compelling images, it is the story behind the pictures that makes this an exceptional title.

McPhedran may have died, in May this year, aged 82, but his life left an incalculable imprint on the perceptions of readers across the globe. Stop the Presses! is a fitting eulogy and a mere hint of the scale of his legacy.

Reviewed by James Murphy

Rating out of 10:  9

Distributed by: New Holland Publishers
Released: August 2018
RRP; $39.99 hardback

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