Athol Shmith's career as a portrait, fashion and advertising photographer, spanning over 60 years, made him both a documenter and shaper of Melbourne style.

When Athol Shmith moved to a studio in Collins Street's 'Paris End' in 1939 to begin his career in fashion photography, his main problem was the lack of professional models.

Very few models existed in 1930s Melbourne due to the connotations associated with the profession. In order to make his mark, Shmith became inventive, recruiting suitable young women from Melbourne's most prominent families. By drawing on high society, he gave fashion photography an air of respectability, and by the 1940s, the model and photographer professions were firmly established.

As Melbourne's leading fashion photographer, Shmith spearheaded the introduction of the 'modern look' to local fashion, using clean and bold lines and arrangements combined with Hollywood Glamour.