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Magda Keaney

Magda Keaney

Senior Curator, Photographs


Job description

As Senior Curator, Photographs, I lead a team of curators responsible for acquisitions, displays and exhibitions, research and care of the Photographs collection. I work across historical and contemporary periods to ensure that the Photographs collection is well researched, accessible and presented in thought provoking ways. The Gallery has produced many important photographic exhibitions and catalogues which we are continuing to develop. As Associate Curator, Photographs, I curated Irving Penn Portraits at the Gallery in 2010.

I am excited to be working toward our ‘Inspiring People’ project which is a remarkable opportunity to reimagine the interpretation and display of the collection. We are thinking about ways to weave photographic portraits and the stories they tell about who we are through the Gallery in unexpected, challenging and uplifting ways.


I started my curatorial career working as a researcher at the National Gallery of Australia. I developed my first photographic exhibitions as an Assistant Curator at the Australian National Portrait Gallery and I worked on the inaugural historic display of prominent Australians at the institution. I subsequently worked as an Assistant and Associate curator at the National Portrait Gallery, London. I was Curator at the Fashion Space Gallery, London College of Fashion where photography was key to a cross disciplinary exhibition program I instigated. At this time I started work for my book ‘Fashion Photography Next’ published by Thames and Hudson, then also presented as an exhibition with Foam Photomuseum in Amsterdam and the Fashion Space Gallery. Before returning to London, I was Senior Curator, Photographs, at the Australian War Memorial, where I curated the Centenary of Armistice exhibition ‘After the War’.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in the History of Art from the Australian National University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Curatorial Studies from the University of Melbourne and a MA in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Research interests

My current research at the NPG is focused on the major reconceptualisation and presentation of the photographs collection for the Inspiring People project spanning nineteenth century to the contemporary period. I am also researching the work of Julia Margaret Cameron and Francesca Woodman side-by-side for a forthcoming exhibition.

My research is most often object and archive based and considers an expanded field of lens based practice. I have particular interests in women photographers, Australian photography, fashion image making, the photographic studio, photography and conflict and contemporary practice. I was the curator of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019, 2020 & 2021, including ‘In focus’ displays by Ethan James Green and Alessandra Sanguinetti.

I am a PhD candidate at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at the Australian National University.

Recent Publications

Over two decades I have written extensively about photography for magazines and journals as well as for exhibition catalogues including:

100 Fashion Icons, National Portrait Gallery, 2019

‘Cindy Sherman’s Fashion Pictures’, in Cindy Sherman, National Portrait Gallery, 2019

‘Forced into Images’ by Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser, in Know my Name, National Gallery of Australia, 2020

Fashion Photography Next, Thames & Hudson, 2014

Irving Penn Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 2010


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