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
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