Theatre Photographer Stuart Campbell Dies

Australian theatre is today mourning the passing of much-loved photographer, Stuart Campbell.

Tributes continue to flow in for Mr Campbell, who was the man the theatre industry turned to when it came to scoring the perfect photo or headshot.

Respected Actor Simon Burke said it was a great loss.

“Today we lost Stuart – the most truly unique, impossible, brutally honest, unbelievably hilarious, kind and wicked and crazy and wonderful man that I have ever known,” Burke said.

“All my love to his amazing family who have lived through every minute of the nightmare of the last ghastly four weeks with him.”

The theatrical agent Les Solomon said it was a great loss to the industry.

“Stuart was ‘the’ photographer for most actors in  Sydney until recently when he retired,” Solomon said.

“He was very very much loved.”

Actor and comedian Phill Scott provided the following tribute:

“Stuart Campbell has gone.

For those of you who don’t know the Bondi push of the 80s and 90s, that won’t mean much. To the rest of us, it’s unthinkable. The absolute end of an era. One by one they moved out, “the bitches of Bondi” as they were crowned by fellow bitch Ignatius Jones: actors Simon, Nicholas, Garry, Graham and his partner Kim, multi-skilled Brett, boyish Jason, quiet Evan and many others who were part of Stuart’s circle. Hard to imagine there’ll be no more of those boozy Sunday afternoons in the backyard. There, film makers like his friends Gillian Armstrong and Jane Scott, writers like Lee Tulloch, musicians like Richard Tognetti, and actors galore mixed freely with the lowest criminal element of rough trade.

My memories are of being doubled over with laughter for hours on end. Stuart may have rubbed everyone up the wrong way – he delighted in it – but there’s no denying he was hilarious. The most upfront, tactless, impossible, gifted, witty and above all loyal man it’s been my privilege to know.

A NIDA trained actor, Stuart made his Sydney living instead through photography, shooting headshots of actors and production shots of shows. Coltish Mel Gibson, before power eroded his charm— the young Nick Eadie, the sexiest face you’ve ever seen— Todd McKenney, alias Princess Backflip, who used to live upstairs— every Australian star, at every stage of their career: they’re all there in Stuart’s library.

In his Hall St hallway was a beautiful photograph of a young actor named Todd Boyce – long since resident in England – up to his nipples in the ocean at Tamarama. He is mucking around and leering at the lens, the picture of youth: innocent yet utterly self-aware. Not far from it hung a framed newspaper headline from a story about an intruder in Buckingham Palace: ‘Man Found On Queen’s Bed’.

Stuart was a great black and white photographer, especially of the male body, but self-effacing about his artwork. (He was a mass of contradictions.) He rarely exhibited. The last exhibition was, I think, reluctantly partaken in 1998 as part of the Mardi Gras Festival. Inevitably, Stuart caused controversy. Recently there had been a fracas in the art world over a piece called “Piss Christ”. Stuart took it a step further, shooting a cat on the cross and calling it “Puss Christ”. It was the one and only time his work was reviewed in the daily papers—on the front page! Christians and Animal Rights Activists are two easy groups to antagonize, and Stuart deftly managed to do it. The pity was, “Puss Christ” put his other work in the shade. In my opinion, Stuart’s artistic shots were in the same league as Mapplethorpe.

Stuart found it hard to continue with his trade when photography went digital and the chemical processors were out of business. He made money by shooting weddings, but it’s a tricky situation when the official photographer gets the happy couple pissed, insults the parents and flirts outrageously with the groomsmen. In 2006 he gave it up and moved back home to Ballarat, where he died on Tuesday.

One favourite story. In the 90s, Simon Burke was appearing in Phantom Of The Opera in London. A man in the chorus said to him: “My 19-year-old nephew is backpacking around Australia. You’re from Bondi: do you know anywhere he could stay?” As soon as Simon saw the kid’s photo, he called Stuart. Stuart generously put the nephew up for a while and, of course, took some sexy underwear shots. Being Stuart, he also managed to capture a palpable aura of danger around this darkly good-looking kid. Several years later, Stuart sold the photos to a British tabloid. He made big money. Why not? Who wouldn’t want to see underwear shots of the 19-year-old Colin Farrell?

Stuart and I were friends for 32 years, unbelievable! We met in the Old Tote Theatre’s 1977 production of The Tempest. (Stuart was acting in it, and I was playing my musical score for synthesizer and percussion live at each performance.) I’ll be raising a glass of chilled white wine for him tonight- in fact, I’ve already raised a number of them. My dear and talented friend, I salute you.”

2 thoughts on “Theatre Photographer Stuart Campbell Dies

  • very nicely written article. stuart will be missed by me too as he was a good friend of mine as well. RIP Stuart Campbell.

    Reply
  • I am trying to get in contact with who ever is looking after Stuart’s estate as I have photos and memorabilia for them any help would be greatly appreciated

    Reply

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