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Vale Don Burrows (1928-2020)

Legendary jazz musician and accomplished photographer, Don Burrows, passed away on Thursday, March 12, at the age of 91.

Don Burrows (left) with his music protege, James Morrison.

While famous for his contributions to the Australian jazz scene, Don was cherished by many in the photo industry and received honours from the Australian Institute of Professional Photography in 2008.

In 2008, PhotoReview published an article regarding the AIPP honour:

‘Since being given a Kodak Box Brownie by his Aunt when he was just eleven years of age, he has gone on to use photographic skills to aid music education programs. For more than 40 years, Don has visited countless outback Australian locations playing and showing pictures to aboriginal and white children alike. During this time, Don photographed many of the sights and people along the way, with some of his favourite images being those taken of Indigenous children.

These images were never included in his pictures for sale, however after discussing the situation with a colleague, an idea was put to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra. The result saw the establishment of a fund in which all the proceeds of the sales of these images went to aid any young aboriginal seeking assistance in a career in music. Don Burrows’ contribution to photography has been recognized by his nomination as an Honorary Life Member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography at the AIPP’s Canon Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPAs).’

Paul Curtis, a former photographic magazine editor and industry association CEO, remembers his colleague and friend, Don, as an extremely talented and giving photographer:

‘The Australian photo industry lost a very good friend with the passing of Don Burrows. Well known for his life as a jazz musician, Don was also  an extremely talented photographer.

In my role first as a photographic magazine editor and publisher and then as executive director of the Australian industry association,  PICA, I had the pleasure of working with Don for many years. His enthusiasm and commitment to young Australians, led to us supporting his work with the education of school children in both music and photography. He particularly liked helping [indigenous] children in the outback. When discussing his work with children – fostering of both their music and photography talents – Don’s mantra was “I want to teach children how to listen and how to see”. We appointed him as our Photography Youth Ambassador and the AIPP made him an honorary life member in 2008.

His numerous other awards included being annointed as one of Australia’s National  Living Treasures. He was getting a bit frail when we planned a photography trip together with my wife to the oxygen depleted Machu Picchu in Peru, but as I liked to joke with him, I was fearful of the penalty for killing off a National Treasure!

In more recent years, I must confess that after moving to Queensland we lost touch. But I always took great heart from having watched Don emerge as a father figure to musician, James Morrison. And then, in his later years, knowing James and his wife were giving their all to look after Don. It was very touching. And the incredible thing was that when James started to play for him, Don came fully alive and knew every note.

On behalf of all your friends in the photographic industry, we wish you a safe journey. None of us will ever forget you for your passion, energy and enthusiasm for everything encompassing music, photography, boating, fishing, golf and life itself.’

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