Featured, Profiles

Institute Luminary Turns 80 – David McCarthy

Saturday 12th September 2020
By Katrina Ferguson

The McCarthy name is deeply entrenched in our Institute’s history and today we’d like to wish former President and IAP/AIPP devotee, David McCarthy OAM HonFAIPP HonLM, a very happy 80th birthday.

Not only was David the son of Institute founder and inaugural President, Claude McCarthy OAM AAIPP HonLM HonFAIPP, he firmly established his own name and presence both within the Institute and across his 50-year career as a successful commercial and industrial photographer.

“Everybody thought the world of David,” said former President and long-time Institute member, Richard Bennett OAM MPhotog IV HonFAIPP FAIPP, who joined in 1974.

Photo of David by Heide Smith APP HonFAIPP FAIPP HonLM

“He was a very, very good photographer,” former AIPP President, Malcolm Mathieson MPhotog HonFAIPP, said. “[David was] a very good businessman come photographer; a great operator.”

A Path His Own

Though born and raised in the industry, if you will, and unquestionably having big shoes to fill, David made his own indelible impression on the Institute.

“He was undoubtedly a chip off the old block in terms of energy, commitment, passion and orderly decision making. But he also brought with him a deftness of touch and a delightful sense of humour that made him a very powerful persuader and great entertainer.”

Paul Curtis HonFAIPP

In 1976 at age 36, David was the youngest person to be elected President and was successfully re-elected the following year.

He was the first offspring of a former President ever elected – a happening not repeated until some 33 years later when Alice Bennett (daughter of Richard) became President in 2008.

The first Merit Awards for the AIPP were held in 1977 during David’s tenure, and his leadership paired with the drive and persistence of Peter Foeden and Max Townsend, helped materialise the national awards from mere concept to reality – now with 43 years of history behind them.

For 17 years, David was a judge at the national print awards (now fondly known as APPA) and served as a panel chair for 15 years.

David was the Federal Chair of the Honours Committee for 2 years and proudly represented Australia as Institute President at the official opening ceremony of the Professional Photographers’ Association of America [LINK: https://www.ppa.com/] national convention in Washington DC on the occasion of the USA centenary celebrations.

“All the national presidents from around the world were invited to the stage to say a few words,” said Richard Bennett, a fellow guest.

Richard explained David was invited to the lectern immediately after the very smartly dressed and well-mannered Japanese president and proceeded to mock his own hodgepodge suit resulting from a lost luggage situation.

“It was fantastic! And totally different to what anybody else had to say. [David] did a great job. Everybody was so stiff and formal and he came on as the typical Crocodile Dundee Australian – but he did it better than Dundee.”

Richard Bennett OAM MPhotogIV HonFAIPP FAIPP
Or perhaps more Indiana Jones? Photo by Eric Victor APPL MPhotog HonFAIPP

David is remembered fondly – if not infamously on occasion – for what Paul Curtis describes as his quick with and astute observations that were annually on show in his role as master of ceremonies at the awards gala dinners.

“David could easily have swapped his camera for a microphone in show business. As an emcee at the annual dinners he was without peer. His whimsical asides and observations of his fellows in the industry not only brought pride to the photographer’s heart, but tears of laughter to the eyes.”

Paul Curtis HonFAIPP
Photo of David by Heide Smith APP HonFAIPP FAIPP HonLM

David was emcee for many years and only replaced when the Institute and society at large became more politically correct.

“McCarthy would be the most politically incorrect human you would ever meet!” former AIPP President, Malcolm Mathieson MPhotog HonFAIPP, affectionately joked. “I like him a lot. He’s a very likable character.”

“Like a lot of photographers, [David] would use humour to get a reaction from his clients…by teasing them and using colourful language.”

Malcolm Mathieson MPhotog HonFAIPP

Evidently however, David had a good sense of appropriate time and place and was well respected among peers and across the industry.

He was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 1995 for his services to the photography industry after the Queensland division of the Institute nominated him.

“McCarthy genuinely did a lot for the photographic industry, photography in general, and photographers.”

Kevin O’Daly MPhotog HonFAIPP

Like father, like son: Claude too was awarded an OAM many years prior.

A Legacy Left

“The very first foundations of what was to finally become the Australian Institute of Professional Photography were laid in 1912 when Harold Cazneaux of Freemasons Studio, and Sydney Riley came together with other studio owners to form what was to become known as The Professional Photographers’ Association [PPA] of NSW.”

Paul Curtis HonFAIPP

Some 51 years later, in 1963, David’s father, Queensland portrait photographer Claude McCarthy, became the founding President of the IAP and served in the role until the end of 1968. In 1970 he became the first person to be awarded an Honorary Fellow of the Institute for outstanding and long-term service.

Claude joined the PPA in 1945, later became the secretary of the Queensland division for two terms over six years and served as State President from 1946-1954. He also served as the National PPA Vice President from 1954-1963.

As detailed by Paul Curtis in A History of Professional Photography in Australia, Claude was quoted in the Institute magazine February 1963 edition as saying: “My aim is the protection of the interests of the professional, and the promotion of a better understanding of professional photography: firstly by the general public.”

“Claude was a dynamo of a man,” wrote Paul. “A man of the age. He quickly set about the task of revolutionising the flagging association in earnest and became the true father of the association as we know it today.”

Father of the Institute, father of David McCarthy.

“We would not have had an association without Claude,” David told Paul of his father during the compilation of the Institute’s written history.

The AIPP established the Claude McCarthy Award in Claude’s honour. It’s presented annually to a person(s) for outstanding contribution to the photography industry – an apt description given the service and dedication of the man himself…emulated in part decades later by his son, David.

Well Wishes

From all of us here at the AIPP David, we’d like to send warm birthday wishes your way and thank you for your long and enthusiastic involvement in the Institute. It’s people like you and your contemporaries who’ve helped pave the way and set the tone for those who’ve followed now – and long into the future.

Many thanks to Kevin O’Daly, Richard Bennett and Malcolm Mathieson for their input into this article. Historical detail was also acquired from Paul Curtis’ book: A History of Professional Photography in Australia.

Please leave a comment for David below…


  • September 12, 2020 - Reply

    Rick Sherwin

    Hey David ! You made it to 80 too ! Best wishes from your old mate Geronimo 🙂

  • September 12, 2020 - Reply

    Tony Hewitt

    Happy birthday David

    You have left an indelible mark on the profession of photography, and the AIPP, with your leadership and example. Not to mention the benchmark you set as a commentator and MC at AIPP functions. I have always appreciated your insights and thank you for leading the way.

    Have a fantastic day mate!

  • September 12, 2020 - Reply

    Ian van der Wolde

    Happy Birthday David,
    Love and best wishes for your milestone 80th birthday. Hope you have a wonderful day surrounded by those who are important to you.
    Many happy returns and best wishes for the year ahead.

  • September 12, 2020 - Reply

    Will Street

    Many, many great memories of IAP then AIPP meetings, conventions, sailing competitions at both State and National level.
    I think your father was proud that you continued upholding his legacy over the years.
    Have a great day!

  • September 12, 2020 - Reply

    Andrew Kopp

    Happy Birthday David,
    I cannot help but smile remembering the pain of laughing so much at the presentation dinners that relieved the pain in the hands from clapping so much 🎉

  • September 12, 2020 - Reply

    Eric victor

    Many thanks for all the advices and the laughs along the great journey. Have a great birthday, and soon we will catch up for a Rum and Coke!

  • September 12, 2020 - Reply

    Heide Smith

    David made everybody feel at ease. Great to be in his company! I met and photographed him when his and Pooley’s studio was in a church.

  • September 13, 2020 - Reply

    Peter Foeden Snr.

    Dear David , happy birthday to you, young man.
    I have fond memories of the times we shared in the aipp .
    You really were the mover and shaker in so many ways and
    your emce performances were awesome, funny, loved by all
    and feared by some ….
    Proud to think of you as a friend. Keep well.

  • September 13, 2020 - Reply

    Andrew Monger

    Congratulations David. Trust your life has been full of great images greated.
    Thank you for your influence in my early days of my photography caree. Cheers, Andrew Monger

  • September 14, 2020 - Reply

    Philip Kuruvita

    Happy Birthday David! We share the same birthday ( except mine was many many years after yours!) Wishing you all the best for many years to come😃

  • September 14, 2020 - Reply

    David McCarthy

    G’day every body – thanks for all your very kind comments – I tried to reply to each individually but can’t work out how to do that – SO, here is a great big collective “Thank You” to all of you – I remember you all and cherish your thoughts and memories and enjoy of your very kind comments. We had a lot of fun back in the ‘old’ days. Now onward, to catch up to Peter Foeden Snr THEN we will party on, eh Peter!
    Cheers, David McCarthy.

  • September 18, 2020 - Reply

    Kylie Lyons

    Happy Birthday to you! I loved looking back on these historic treasures and enjoying the fashion, hairstyles and cigarettes/cigars in hand…. My hasn’t the world changed. You have obvossly touched many peoples’ lives in the photographic industry. Your mark is indellible. Congratulations on your milestone!!

  • September 19, 2020 - Reply

    Bill Rose

    Congratulations David. Thank you for your role in making the AIPP such a wonderful and successful organisation. Whatever success I have had in my photography career I owe to what I learnt from AIPP seminars and rubbing shoulders with other photographers. I am now 78, retired for 12 years and have been a member since 1972.

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