Photographer, was born in 1917, son of the English film star Madge Campbell and her husband Douglas Murray (whom she met when he was at Cambridge) of a well-known South Australian pastoral family that lived on a property called Murray Park – now the Adelaide suburb of that name. He was educated at St Peter’s College, Adelaide and at Cambridge then spent some time as a jackaroo, despite having absolutely no interest in rural life. Instead he was keen on photography, painting and drawing so drove to Sydney to work as an artist and never returned to Adelaide. In 1947 Ure Smith published his Alec Murray’s Album , a collection of portraits of Sydney society, diplomats, dancers and painters ('friends’) who included the young Kerry Packer sitting by a fish pond, the dress designer Luciana Arrighi and her sister Marcella, journalist David McNicoll, decorator Lesley Walford and lots of glamorous women. Many of the photographs were taken at Merioola, a large boarding house in Rosemount Avenue, Woollahra owned by Chicka Lowe (see Christine France, 1986) where lots of avant-garde artists lived, including Donald Friend , Justin O’Brien, Loudon Sainthill and Jocelyn Rickards. Murray lived in the stables.

He left Australia the year after the book was published and was joined in London by Rickards and Harry Tatlock Miller, later by Sainthill. They all found it difficult to get work in Britain but Murray got a job as a photographer for a magazine called Illustrated and his salary supported the four of them in a small flat in South Kensington. Failing to enlist during WWII because he was diabetic, he talked the authorities into appointing him a photographer in the Royal Navy. Packing a quantity of insulin and secretly injecting himself twice a day, he went to the Pacific Islands. 'Brave, but mad’, his wife later commented.

By 1951 Murray had his own London studio and his first commission from Paris Match . He covered the Coronation for the magazine and was its London photographer for more than a decade. From the mid-1950s until the late 1960s he drove his two-toned Rolls Royce coupe to Paris twice a year for the fashion collections (see also Louis Kahan earlier from Austria), working for the London Daily Telegraph , the Sunday Times and the Australian Women’s Weekly . At the end of each day his assistant Mike Martin would print the black and white photos in the hotel room, washing them in the bidet then ferrying them to the Qantas airbag and direct to the Women’s Weekly . During the 1960s he met and later married the model Sue Robins, who was to become a leading fashion stylist and costume designer. They bought a small cottage near Newbury in Berkshire as a weekend retreat from their elegant Belgravia house – hung with pictures of Murray Park’s finest merinos – where they went every Friday with their small dogs, Adelaide and Sydney. Occasionally they travelled to Sydney to stay with Murray’s oldest friend, the painter Margaret Olley .

Murray retired in 1985. His photographs were rarely exhibited publicly but rather displayed in silver picture frames on grand pianos in private homes, said Julia Clark, until Clark curated the National Portrait Gallery exhibition High Society at the NLA in 1995. In 2001 a retrospective entitled Alec Murray’s Album was mounted at the National Trust SH Ervin Gallery in Sydney; it was on view at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Victoria, when Murray died in 2002.

Kerr, Joan
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