'He came to the door wearing nothing but his DPs': The story behind Hawke's iconic photo

The story behind Bob and Blanche's revealing photo, taken by an Illawarra Mercury photographer


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When you doorknock a former Prime Minister, you don't expect them to answer the door wearing nothing but a pair of swimmers.

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When you doorknock a former Prime Minister, you don't expect them to answer the door wearing nothing but a pair of swimmers.

Yet that's the sight that greeted Mercury reporter Lisa Carty and photographer Orlando Chiodo on December 31, 1994, when they knocked on the door where Bob Hawke was holidaying with his new love, biographer Blanche d'Alpuget.

The pair had been dating for some time but no one had managed a photo of them together.

On December 30, a friend of Carty's called to say the pair were staying at a house at Berrara Beach, near Sussex Inlet.

They would walk along the beach every morning and evening, the friend said.

Without a chance to pick up a change of clothes or even a toothbrush Carty and Chiodo jumped in the car and headed south.

Casual: The memorable photo of couple Blanche d'Alpuget and Bob Hawke taken by Mercury photographer Orlando Chiodo on the South Coast on New Year's Eve in 1994.

Casual: The memorable photo of couple Blanche d'Alpuget and Bob Hawke taken by Mercury photographer Orlando Chiodo on the South Coast on New Year's Eve in 1994.

That afternoon and the following morning, they staked out the beach near the house - trying to look inconspicuous sitting on the sand in their work clothes - but the couple didn't show.

Then Carty realised there was only one thing to do - walk up and knock on Hawke's door.

"He came to the door wearing nothing but his DPs - he didn't change or anything," Chiodo remembered.

"We explained who we were, where we were from. He was really good, he goes, 'okay, come back at one o'clock and I'll give you an interview'."

The former Prime Minister had one condition - the Sydney Morning Herald were not to get a copy of the photo.

When they returned at the appointed hour, Hawke ushered them into the house - still wearing those DPs despite having had several hours to change.

The front page of the Mercury on January 1, 1995 ...

The front page of the Mercury on January 1, 1995 ...

"He opened the house to us, invited us in," Chiodo remembered.

"We interviewed him and Blanche about the book and what life had in store for them."

When it came time to take that now iconic photo, Chiodo took them out to the backyard - but not before asking the former Prime Minister if he wanted to change into something a little less revealing.

"No, I'm right," Hawke told him.

They had the photo the media had been after for months but, in the days of film photography, the drive back to the office was nerve-wracking.

... and the rest of the exclusive story on page 3 of the January edition of the Mercury.

... and the rest of the exclusive story on page 3 of the January edition of the Mercury.

"I kept thinking, 'what happens if there's nothing on that film'," Chiodo said.

"When we got back I ran straight into the studio at work and processed the film. There was the negative, as sharp as - a nice photo of Bob and Blanche, with Bob looking into her eyes."

The photo ran on the front page of the Mercury on January 1, 1995, and made waves around the world

Chiodo said he had taken better photos, but none had the effect of the Bob and Blanche shot.

And of the man himself, Chiodo remembers Hawke as "a great man, so polite and humble".

"I didn't think it was going to be that easy," he said.

"I thought he'd say 'no, I don't want anything to do with you' and turn around and shut the door."

Illawarra Mercury

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