Photo: George Serras, NMA

Helen Ennis is one of Australia’s leading photography curators, historians and writers. She was formerly Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia (1985-1992). She joined the Australian National University School of Art & Design in 1995 and was Director of the Centre for Art History and Art Theory and the Sir William Dobell Chair of Art History from 2014-18. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities and a certified valuer for the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.

Helen specializes in Australian photographic history, especially of the modern period, biography, death studies, curatorship and museology. Since 2000 she has curated 8 major exhibitions for the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery of Australia, National Library of Australia and other cultural institutions. She has recently completed a biography of modernist photographer Olive Cotton, supported by funding from the Australia Council Literature Board. She was awarded a Peter Blazey Fellowship in 2012 and the ABR George Hicks Foundation Fellowship in 2013, which also assisted with the writing.

Available now

Olive Cotton: A life in photography

Olive Cotton: A life in photography

Helen Ennis, 2019

A landmark biography of a singular and important Australian photographer, Olive Cotton, by an award-winning writer – beautifully written and deeply moving. Available in bookstores from October 21.

Read more about Helen's Olive Cotton: A life in photography book →

Publication Highlights

Margaret Michaelis: love, loss and photography
Reveries: Photography & Mortality
Photography and Australia


  • Sydney Launch

    At Gleebooks on Wednesday 11 December at 6pm Helen will be in conversation with Susan Wyndham. Details here.

  • Cowra Launch

    The Cotton biography will be launched at Cowra Regional Gallery on Saturday 16 November at 2pm by Helen Maxwell. RSVP by 12 November

  • Canberra launch

    Helen will be in conversation with Alex Sloan at the National Library on 28 November at 6pm. For bookings go here.

  • ABC RN interview

    Ed Ayers’s interview with Helen Ennis about Olive Cotton’s biography will be on ABC Radio National on the Arts Show, Wednesday 23 October at 10am.

  • In conversation at AGSA

    At the Art Gallery of South Australia on 6 December Helen will be in conversation with curator Julie Robinson about Olive Cotton: A life in photography.

  • Essay in new NGV publication

    For the forthcoming book She persists, being published by the NGV, Helen has written an essay on Australian women photographers of the 1970s with reference to the NGV collection.

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