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Biography

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Hedda Morrison was born Hedda Hammer in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1908. As a young child she contracted polio, which caused her to walk with a limp. In 1929 she completed her secondary education at the Queen Katherine Convent (Konigen-Katherina-Stift Gymnasium für Mädchen) in Stuttgart, and was sent to the University of Innsbruck in Austria to study medicine. After a few months she persuaded her parents to allow her to enroll in the State Institute for Photography in Munich (Bäyerische Staatslehranstalt für Lichtbildwesen in München).

After completing her studies, Hedda found paid work difficult to find as a result of the Depression. She decided to travel to China in 1933 in response to an advertisement in a photography journal. Between 1933 and 1938 she managed Hartung's, a German-owned commercial photographic studio in Peking. After her contract there expired in 1938, she continued to work as a freelance photographer. Hedda's photographs of Peking were well known, and she sold many prints and albums to wealthy overseas visitors as souvenirs.

In 1940 Hedda met Alastair Morrison and they married in Peking in 1946. Due to the increasing instability of the political situation in China, they left Peking soon after. The Morrison's spent six months in Hong Kong before relocating to Sarawak, in the north-west of the island of Borneo, where Alastair was appointed to the British Colonial Service and later became a district officer. Throughout her 20-year residence in Sarawak, Hedda accompanied Alastair on all his official journeys and made numerous independent photographic tours. From 1960-66 Hedda was employed by the Sarawak government to work part-time in the photographic section of the Information Office is Kuching. Her duties included taking photographs, establishing a photographic library and training government photographers. Hedda wrote two major books on Sarawak, Sarawak (1957) and Life in a Longhouse (1962).

In 1967 the Morrisons settled in Canberra, Australia. Hedda died in Canberra in 1991, at the age of 82.

Adapted from: "In her view: the photographs of Hedda Morrison in China and Sarawak 1933-67," exhibition catalogue, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia