Artist Biography


Jon Lewis was one of Australia’s most respected photographers, renowned both at home and internationally for depicting snapshots of everyday life with warmth and humanity. Lewis wryly called himself a ‘traditionalist’ but it would be more accurate to call him a humanist – a photographer whose first concern was with the people. “Great portraiture is great photography. You’ve got to know about yourself and you’ve got to know about others” Lewis said.

Exclusive Jon Lewis photography is available to purchase at Berkeley Editions Fine Art.

He first exhibited in 1974  and was a member of Sydney’s “Yellow House” in the early 70’s along with other iconic Australian artists such as Garry Shead and Martin Sharp.

Lewis’ Face to Face portraiture series – ‘200 Faces for 200 Years’ is on permanent display at the National Museum of Australia, and his best known work, the Bondi portfolio, travelled around France for four years.

“Equipped with only one camera with wide-angle lens closely matching the human eye’s field of vision, Lewis’ photographs are, for the most part, artlessly direct portraits of the people either living in or visiting that most Australian of places, Bondi. Above all Lewis’ photographs celebrate the facts that Bondi for all its tacky charm belongs to the people…” Robert McFarlane, The Australian, June 1985

In contrast, in 1999 Lewis spent 16 months photographing the people and the reconstruction effort in East Timor. He learnt to speak Tetun, the local language, and travelled around the island extensively, returning home with a thousand reels of film in which he captured not the act of violence, but the aftermath, depicting the resilience of the Timorese people in his sensitive and spontaneous images.

“Photography for me is the art of documentation…I’m drawn to indigenous cultures…”

In his series ‘Kiribati: Putting a Face to Climate Change’ Lewis portrayed the plight of the people from the small Pacific nation of Kiribati, who are living literally on the very edge. Their country is under threat of storm surges, salination of fresh water, unpredictable weather and tidal increases and it is predicted that the nation has only 30-40 years left. Lewis’ photographs are at once intimate and challenging and they raise serious questions about the responsibilities of developed countries such as Australia in the climate change debate.

Lewis’ interest in conservation is evident from his early days. In the early 70s he made the experimental video ‘Bush Video’, and in 1977 he was a founder of Greenpeace Australia. His first direct action was against Australia’s last whaling station in Albany, Western Australia, in which he and fellow activists used Zodiacs to place themselves between the harpoons of three whale chaser ships and the sperm whales up to 30 miles offshore. The successful campaign led to an end to the slaughter of whales in Australia in 1978.

Nowdays, when not photographing or teaching, Lewis lives in the Southern Highlands of NSW. He says of his photos in the series  ‘From The Ranges’ which he created in the local area, “…They are an attempt to ‘suss’ the bush, not as ‘operatic’ or majestic, but more the details of larger parts. Much is inspired by the mythology of Garangatch and Mirrigan, the two local indigenous ancestors, whose great chase brought the countryside into existence through their ferocious battle. I feel comfortable in the bush. I talk to animals and trees and rocks … the photographs you see here are their reply.”

‘Nerrimunga Spots 6 & 7’ are two black and white photographs from this series created especially for Berkeley Editions.

2016 Australian Galleries, Paddington
2014-2016 Galerie “La Vitrine D’ Hervé”, Paris
2012 ANU Gallery, Canberra
2012 Damien Minton Gallery, Sydney
2012 Dab Lab Gallery – UTS, Sydney
2012 South Hill Gallery, Goulburn
2012 Bondi Pavillion Atrium
2011 South Hill Gallery, Goulburn
2010 Sydney Theatre Company
2010 Monash Gallery of Art
2009 UTS Gallery, Sydney
2007 Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney
2007 UTS Gallery, Sydney
2006 Customs House, Sydney
2006 Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney
2006 Bega Valley Regional Gallery
2006 Mori Gallery, Sydney
2005 National Museum of Australia
2005 Goulburn Regional Gallery
2004 Pine St Gallery, Chippendale
2003 Campbelltown City Art Gallery
2001 Stills Gallery, Sydney
2000 Entertainment Centre, Darwin
1999 Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1999 Sturt Gallery, Mittagong
1993 Musee National des Arts de l’ Afrique et de L’Oceanie, Paris, France
1992 Stills Gallery, Sydney
1992 Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1989-93 Fnac Galerie Photo, Paris and throughout France and Belgium
1988 13 Verity Street, Melbourne
1988 Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakata, Indonesia
1988 Solander Gallery, Sydney
1988 Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1987 Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1987 13 Verity Street, Melbourne
1985 Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1978 ANZ Gallery, Sydney
1976 Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1976 Pentax Brummels Gallery, Melbourne
1974 Bonython Gallery, Sydney

2016 Australian Life, Art & About – Sydney
2016 DUO Percival Photographic Portrait Prize – Pinnacles Gallery, Townsville
2016 IRIS Award – Perth Centre for Photography
2016 Decisive: New Currents in Street Photography – Sixteen Mile Arts, Canada
2016 Add On – Head On Photo Festival, Sydney
2016 Bush Capital – Canberra Museum and Gallery
2016 After Dark Cowra – Cowra Regional Gallery
2015 The Photograph and Australia – Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
2015 Bowness Award – Monash Gallery, Melbourne
2015 Australian and International Contemporary Photography – Olsen Irwin Gallery
2015 The Decisive Moment – Contact Sheet Gallery
2014 National Portrait Prize travelling exhibition
2014 Australian Life, Art & About
2014 Art For Mart – South Hill Gallery
2014 Genesis Project – M Contemporary Gallery
2014 Ulsan International Photography Festival, South Korea
2014 Contemporary Chinese and Australian Photography – 3 perspectives – China Cultural Centre, Sydney
2014 face 2 face – Robin Gibson Gallery
2014 DUO Percival Photographic Portrait Prize – Pinnacles Gallery
2014 Beautiful Whale – Australian National Maritime Museum
2014 Head On South
2013 National Portrait Gallery (Paul Kelly)
2013 Penrith Regional Gallery
2013 Goulburn Regional Gallery x 2
2013 South Hill Gallery
2013 Picturing Compassion – Sydney Town Hall
2013 DNA Gallery
2012 Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
2012 Goulburn Regional Gallery
2009-10 Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
2007 Greenpeace Anniversary – Carriageworks, Sydney
2007 Tweed River Art Galley
2007 Head On, Sydney
2006 Tweed River Art Galley
2006 Alliance Francais, Sydney
2006 Head On, Sydney
2005 Tweed River Art Galley
2005 Alliance Francais, Sydney
2004 Ulrick/Schubert Award – Gold Coast Regional Gallery
2003 Citigroup Portrait Prize Art Gallery of NSW
2003 Ulrick/Schubert Award Gold Coast City Art Gallery
2002 Ulrick/Schubert Award Gold Coast City Art Gallery
1999 Yellow House Now, Michael Nagy Gallery
1997 London Photographers Gallery, England
1996 Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney
1995 Sydney Photographed MOCA, Sydney
1994 National Portrait Gallery, ACT
1994 Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
1992 Portrait of a Nation, Mitchell Library, Sydney
1991 La Galeria, Amsterdam, Netherlands
1990 Collection Photo de la Fnac, Paris, France
1989 Stadtishe Galerie, Erlangen, Germany
1989 Yellow House Exhibition, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
1989 Portrait Photography, Australian National Gallery, ACT
1988 Black & White at Coventry, Coventry Gallery, Sydney
1988 A Changing Relationship, S.H. Ervin Gallery
1986 Five Years On, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
1985 Macquarie Galleries, Sydney
1984 Lady Fairfax Awards, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
1984 Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney
1975 Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
1974 Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney

Elton John Collection
Australian National Gallery
Art Gallery of New South Wales
National Museum of Australia
Parliament House, ACT
Health Commission, ACT
Philip Morris Art Purchase
Bibliotheque Nationale, France
Fnac Collection
Centre Regional De La Photographie
Nort Pas – Des Calais
Musee National des Arts de I’ Afrique et de I’ Oceanie
Polaroid Collection, Germany
Private Collections in Australia, France, England, Netherlands & USA

2016 Finalist – 9th Pollux Award
2016 Winner – Australian Life, Art & About
2016 Finalist – IRIS Award
2016 Finalist – DUO Percival Photographic Portrait Prize
2015 Finalist – Bowness Photography Prize
2014 Runner up – Australian Life, Art & About
2014 Finalist – National Photographic Portrait Prize
2014 Finalist – DUO Percival Photographic Portrait Prize
2011 Winner – Momento Portrait Photo Book Prize
2011 Finalist – Head On Portrait Prize
2007 Finalist – Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture
2006 Finalist – Olive Cotton Award for Photographic Portraiture
2006 Finalist – Head On Portrait Prize
2003 Finalist – 50 Crows International Fund for Documentary Photography