With an ardent passion for photography and a love of fast sports cars, the Sydney socialite Marcia AM Clark, born in 1913, was heir to a family fortune. The daughter of Henry Marcus Clark, founder of the homewares company Marcus Clark & Co, Marcia’s photograph albums depict an affluent life.
Marcia travelled extensively across New South Wales in her sports cars. Her photos of these trips include cars imported from overseas, including a rare 1936 Riley Imp, a 1939 Jaguar and a 1949 white Riley sports car.
In the 1930s Marcia appeared in local newspaper columns like the Truth’s ‘Jottings of a Lady About Town’ and the Daily Herald’s ‘The Life of Sydney’. In 1935 she accompanied the film actor Sadie Bedford on her tour around Sydney and hosted international opera and ballet stars at her home in Point Piper. Marcia also accompanied Miss Hélène Kirsova, a famous Danish ballerina on her travels in Australia and New Zealand. Kirsova was also photographed by Max Dupain at this time. Another early passion of Marcia’s was ice-skating and there are photos from Sydney’s Glaciarium as well as portraits of famous skaters who visited Australia.
The Library has recently acquired the photographs and papers of Marcia AM Clark, which capture her life in remarkable detail. Donated by her son Christopher Clark, the hundreds of items which make up this collection date from the early 1900s to the 1950s, providing an incredible insight into Marcia’s extraordinary social life and work. The collection covers her involvement in Sydney’s social scene in the 1920s and 1930s through to her photographic work in the 1940s and 1950s.
When war broke out in 1939, Marcia volunteered with the Women’s Emergency Signal Corps (WESC), founded by her friend Florence Violet McKenzie. This group trained servicemen in radio communications and by the end of the war had trained around 12,000 recruits, mainly airmen.
In 1948 Marcia became a member of the Australian Portfolio Photographic Society (APPS) and from 1961 to 1997 she was Secretary of ‘Circle Two’ of the APPS. For most of her life, Marcia developed and printed her photographs in purpose-built darkrooms at her various houses. Her meticulous interest in photographic processes is reflected in the wide range of formats in the collection — photographic negatives and vintage prints; notebooks and drawings; early colour slides; 16 mm home movie footage; index cards of photo formulas and even receipts for her photography equipment from Sydney retailers.
Marcia won numerous awards for her photography, but these have not previously appeared in literature about female photographers in Australia. Her collection is now in the early stages of being catalogued and we hope to make this important archive available for researchers by early 2021.
Senior Curator, Research & Discovery