Darian Smith – Pioneer in Aerial Photography

Darian SmithDarian Smith (1900-1984) is widely acknowledged as a pioneer of high quality aerial photography in South Australia.  He worked in this field until his death and in the latter years he suffered from partial blindness caused by diabetes – his passion for flying never ceased.

Vickers VimyHis initial flight was with Ross Smith in the Vickers Vimy. This occurred in England in 1918 just before the famous Smith brother’s flight from England to Australia in 1919.  Darian had served with the Army Medical Unit in England during WW1 and had enlisted after saying his age was eighteen even though his true age was sixteen.

A few years later after returning home, he commenced his photography business and was one of the first people to fly from Parafield Airport which commenced operations in 1928.  In those early years during the 1920s and 1930s he associated with many famous aviators including Harry Butler, Bert Hinkler, Jim Mollison and Charles Kingsford Smith.  Many of his remaining photographs portray the adventurous spirit of those early years.

Darian Smith 2

His first aerial photographs were taken in a DH 60 Gypsy Moth, flying with Horrie Miller who later formed MacRobertson Miller Airlines.  This involved standing on the wing of the aircraft and he providing instructions to the pilot using hand signals.  For safety he wore a leather harness that he tested by jumping from a stair landing.

All of his earliest photographs were captured with a large format glass plate camera, which would have been quite heavy to hold whilst in the slipstream of the aircraft.  After each flight he then had to develop the negatives in the basement of his own house in North Adelaide.

Port Adelaide

General Motors Plant at Port Adelaide

He took photographs over all the suburbs of Adelaide and country locations such as Victor Harbor, Goolwa, Barossa Valley and the River Murray. One of his most important assignments was photographing proposed airfield sites in South Australia.  He also was an important medical and industrial photographer and also did a lot of work for Homes and Garden magazine.  His expertise and talent covered a wide range of aspects in photography.

Royal Adelaide Hospital

The Royal Adelaide Hospital

To preserve the legacy of Darian Smith’s vast and important collection of photographs, Atkins Technicolour are undertaking a process of transferring the negatives to digital format.

Mundoo Barage

Mundoo Barage under construction.

Article by Denis Paslow

Dennis himself an aerial photographer became interested in the work of Darian Smith over a decade ago.  This year he launched a facebook page in which he regularly posts images from Darians portfolio.  The images tell of another South Australia that few of us have seen.  I recommend that you have a look and see what we looked like in the 1920’s.


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