about heide



Heide Soltsien was born in Germany, where her father was a graphic artist and designer. After an apprenticeship in photography which culminated in a diploma, Heide studied advertising, gaining a second diploma. After a spell as an industrial photographer, Heide worked as a photojournalist for four years until her marriage in 1963, travelling to England as Mrs Smith. In 1971 the Smith family emigrated to Australia, where Heide worked as a photojournalist and later in a professional colour laboratory. In 1978 the family moved to Canberra, where Heide established a studio, which she ran until 1997. Heide and her husband Brian settled in Narooma, a small fishing village in NSW in 1998, before moving again to Tuross Head in 2018. Heide continues to photograph families and celebrities, participate in exhibitions and competitions, and publish books. In 2009 she was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Australian Institute of Professional Photography, and in 2019 an AIPP Fellowship.


1963 Foto.heide Hameln
1979 Lebendiges Hameln
1980 Works of Art in Canberra (NCDC)
1983 I Love Canberra
1986 I Love Canberra (Two)
1990 Tiwi – The Life and Art of Australia’s Tiwi People
(republished twice)
1992 Heide Smith's Canberra
1994 Shooting at the Moon
( in Cambodia with author Marje Prior )
1999 Canberra-a personal perspective.
2008 Portrait of a people, the Tiwi of Northern Australia
2012 A Portrait of Canberra and of Canberrans 1979-2012

seminars and workshops

Heide has given workshops and seminars to professional and amateur photographers in most states in Australia and in China, Hong Kong, The Philippines, Holland, UK and Germany. In Australia the highlights have been two APSCON conventions, a Caxton Awards presentation to the Australian Advertising Industry in Cairns, and giving workshops at the Light of Australia convention in Sydney, alongside such icons as Arnold Newman, Art Kane and Jay Maisel. In recent years, Heide was a keynote speaker at the "Hair of the Dog" convention in Brisbane, and speaks and judges regularly at local community and photography meetings.


Work included in numerous joint exhibitions throughout Europe and Asia.

1963 Fotokina Cologne.
Heide was one of 14 young German Photographers exhibited at Fotokina

1983 The Churches and Churchmen of Canberra.
Commissioned by the National Library of Australia. The collection was exhibited in the Library, and led to Heide winning the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP),1984 Portrait Photographer of the Year Award

1984 Portrait of an Industry.
Sponsored by Ilford, Heide travelled extensively throughout Australia, photographing leading
photographers.The exhibition was shown in every state in Australia, and when launched at the National Library in Canberra, drew a record 37,000 visitors.

1987 The Tradesmen of Fyshwick
Portraits of workers from the industrial suburb of Fyshwick In 1987 we put up posters all over Fyshwick, a Canberra suburb, saying "Wanted Dead or Alive, tradesmen to be photographed for an exhibition". My studio was swamped with tradesmen carrying the tools of their trade. The exhibition was a great hit with the media and locals

1988 Black Australians
This was the result of five months living with the Tiwi people of Bathurst and Melville Island, and was the first exhibition to be held in the new Parliament House. It was later exhibited in Darwin and Alice Springs, and the Vatican Museum and Gallery in Rome

1990 Because beauty is timeless
Portraits of famous women launched at The National Press Club in Canberra by Bryce Courteney, and exhibited at numerous other locations. This This exhibition received national & international coverage in newspapers, magazine TV and radio.


1992 The Canberra Raiders.
Also launched at the National Press Club, this was a fund raising venture for the beleaguered Canberra Raiders. This was an iconic team, one of the greatest in the history of rugby league.

1992 Looking Back
Retrospective exhibition of Heide's work, launched at the National Convention Centre Canberra, by Lord Patrick Litchfield.

1993. Shooting at the Moon
Pictures of Cambodia, sponsored by Malaysian Airlines, Kodak and AIDAB. Exhibited at the Sydney Town Hall and the Old Parliament House Canberra.

1994. " The Canberrans - A Vintage Selection "
Exhibition for the Council of the Ageing at the ACT Legislative Assembly.

1995 Germany Revisited
Launched at the High Court of Australia by Senator Gareth Evans; consisting of 90 photographs of Germany, resulting from two visits to Germany in 1994, commissioned by the German Government. The collection was later exhibited at the Goethe Institute in Sydney, where it was launched by ex premier Neville Wran. During 1997-1998, the exhibition toured Australia.

1996 The Pegasus Story
Launched by MP John Langmore at the Canberra Theatre in aid of Pegasus, these photographs recorded both staff and students at this riding school for the disabled.

1997 Of tears, laughter and hope
Photographs of 22 women who had suffered from breast cancer and were members of Bosom Buddies. The exhibition travelled throughout the ACT and Sydney.


2004 Black is…
Images from the Tiwi collection at the Postmasters Gallery Bodalla, NSW. This small exhibition was particularly popular with collectors of photography from Sydney and NSW country. It was opened by the late Peter Anderen

2006 Focus Photography & war
Exhibition to launch a new book "Contact" at the Australian War Memorial: chosen from the Memorial's collection of photographs taken in areas of conflict; both book and exhibition included some of Heide's 1993 Cambodia shots.

2008 Heartbeat
Joint multi-media exhibition with three other NSW artists displayed in the Manuka Artspace Canberra, and the Bodalla Gallery.

2008 Vivid – Alternative Photo Processes
A joint exhibition of Australian photographic artists using historical photo processes, at the Church Gallery Canberra

2008 Australian National Photographic Portrait Prize.
An exhibition of the finalist held at the National Portrait Gallery Canberra.

2009 Australian National Photographic Portrait Prize.
An exhibition of the finalist held at the National Portrait Gallery Canberra.

2014 Portraits of Australian Oyster Farmers
Portraits of NSW South Coast oyster farmers from Nowra to Eden. Launched at Parliament House Canberra, it was later exhibited at numerous coastal towns. Sponsored by AOC - Australia's Oyster Coast Inc.


"The volume of work is staggering, but so is the subject matter. Not only has she photographed almost every Australian VIP she has photographed many foreign dignitaries, including the Dalai Lama on one end of the cultural and spiritual scale, and Bill Gates on the other........  I suspect that there would be few photographers in the world unhappy with a distillation of work of such depth and breadth.  "  Stephen Williams Canberra Times  

"This book is a hymn of praise to a people who have survived the ordeal which began with the coming of the white man ...... It is a delight to the eye; it is a source of wisdom to those with the eyes to see it.“
Professor Manning Clark


“To call her colour and black and white large format book a coffee table work would, somehow, be insulting. The photos convey the natural dignity and honest reality of the life and character of this Aboriginal community.”
Sunday Times Perth

“ One women, working alone, has now produced a memorable book of photographs. This book is much more than just another coffee table book, it is an eloquent and moving study of a rich, ancient culture proudly surviving in the modern world.”
Judith White ITA Magazine 

“In her element Smith is superb “
The Sunday Mail Brisbane


"She has been described as a national treasure and her work is acclaimed around the world, but photographer Heide Smith holds a special place in the hearts - and homes - of Canberrans;"
Jane Dargaville Canberra Times 

“these are the pictures of a master, and if Heide Smith continues in this style, her place in photographic posterity is assured.”
Northern Territory News

"it's the portraits that stay with you. Even when her subjects are naked, they are clothed in dignity. Even when they pose ....they are simply themselves.
Elizabeth Keenan Time Magazine