Hedda Morrison

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Hedda Morrison
Photo of Hedda Morrison.jpg
Hedda Morrison, 1941 by Alastair Morrison
Hedwig Marie Hammer

(1908-12-13)13 December 1908
Died3 December 1991(1991-12-03) (aged 82)
EducationBäyerische Staatslehranstalt für Lichtbildwesen, Munich, Germany
Known forDocumentary photography
Spouse(s)Alastair Morrison (1946–1991, her death)

Hedwig Marie "Hedda" Morrison (née Hammer; 13 December 1908 – 3 December 1991) was a German photographer who created memorable documentary images of Beijing, Hong Kong and Sarawak from the 1930s to the 1960s.


Born Hedda Hammer in Stuttgart, 13 December 1908, she studied at the State Institute for Photography (Bäyerische Staatslehranstalt für Lichtbildwesen) in Munich. Not finding the political or economic situation in Germany to her liking, in 1933 she took up a position in China at Hartung's, a German-owned commercial photographic studio in the old Legation Quarter of the city then known as Beiping. During her time in Beijing she took many photographs of the old city and its people, temples and markets, mostly using a Rolleiflex medium-format camera.

In 1940 she met Alastair Morrison, son of George Ernest Morrison, the London Times correspondent in Peking. They married in 1946 and left China shortly afterwards, first for Hong Kong and then to Sarawak, where Alastair became a government district officer during ist turbulent cessation to British Crown Colony (1946–61). During her 20-year stay in Sarawak, Hedda accompanied her husband on official journeys and also made numerous independent photographic tours. In 1967 the Morrisons settled in Canberra, Australia.


In 1955, through the Camera Press agency which was handling her work, Edward Steichen saw Morrison's flash-lit photograph of a festive Dayak group in indigenous dress laughing with a young man in a western-style shirt and wearing a watch. He chose it for the section 'Adult Play' in the world-touring Museum of Modern Art exhibition The Family of Man, seen by 9 million viewers.

Subsequently, Morrison wrote two major books on Sarawak, Sarawak (1957) and Life in a Longhouse (1962).


Exhibitions of her works have been mounted by the Australian National University, Canberra, the Canberra Photographic Society, the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, and the National Library of Australia. Many of her images are archived in the Harvard-Yenching Library, Harvard University and at Cornell University, NY. There is a large collection of her German, Asian and Australian work in the Powerhouse Museum.[1]

Hedda died in Canberra in 1991, at the age of 82.


  • 1957 Sarawark
  • 1962 Life in a Longhouse
  • 1985 A Photographer in Old Peking
  • 1987 Travels of a photographer in China, 1933–1946

Further reading[edit]

  • Stokes, Edward (2009). Hong Kong As It Was, Hedda Morrison’s Photographs 1946 – 47. Hong Kong: The Photographic Heritage Foundation with Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 978-962-209-966-1.
  • Stokes, Edward (2015). Hedda Morrison's Hong Kong: Photographs & Impressions 1946–47. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Conservation Photography Foundation with Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962-209-754-5.
  • George N. Kates, The Years That Were Fat: Peking, 1933–1940 – (Oxford in Asia Paperbacks, 1989).
  • Hedda Morrison, Travels of a Photographer in China, 1933–1946 – (Oxford University Press USA, 1987).
  • Hedda Morrison, A Photographer in Old Peking – (Oxford University Press USA, 1986).
  • Alastair Morrison, Fair Land Sarawak: Some Recollections of an Expatriate Official – (Cornell University Southeast Asia Program Publications, 1993).
  • Roberts, Claire (2016). "Morrison, Hedwig Marie (Hedda) (1908–1991)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University.


  1. ^ "Hedda Morrison: photographic collection", Powerhouse Museum. Retrieved 27 February 2013.

External links[edit]