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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 overarching curatorial approach is an exploration of the possibilities of the portrait photograph – Why it is important to us? What has it been? What it might become? My research is most often object and archive based. In previous research projects I have investigated Victorian portrait photography, the photographic portrait in popular culture, photographic self-portraits, fashion image making, women fashion photographers, photography and conflict and the intersection of the photograph, portraiture and contemporary art. I am a PhD candidate at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at the Australian National University. The subject of my investigation is the photographic studio and I am currently writing a history of images of fashion photographers in their studios. 

Recent Publications

I have written extensively about photography for magazines and journals as well as for exhibition catalogues. Books I have written include ‘Lewis Morley: Myself and Eye’ (NPG Canberra, 2003); ‘World’s Top Photographers: Fashion and Advertising’ (Rotovision. 2005); Irving Penn Portraits (NPG London, 2010) and ‘Fashion Photography Next’ (Thames & Hudson, 2014).


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