When we see a movie poster we tend to think about the film behind the image, rather than the painstaking work – the actors, the sets, the costumes and the hundreds of other photographs – that went into creating the image itself. But a new exhibition by the National Portrait Gallery and the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra will take audiences behind the scenes into the fascinating, if under-appreciated world of the stills photographer.

It was a visit by NFSA Curator Jennifer Coombes to the National Portrait Gallery – for an exhibition about television stills photography entitled Promo Portraits from Primetimethree years ago – and a conversation with Portrait Gallery Assistant Curator Penelope Grist, that got the ball rolling. Starstruck Toni Collette as Muriel trying on a wedding dress by Robert McFarlane, Muriel’s Wedding, 1994, Courtesy House And Moorhouse Films, National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

“We realised that portraiture accompanies film making at every step of the way,” Grist says. “It is the most thoroughly documented creative process, and from the process of the making of the films and the marketing of the films, comes this incredible archive of portraiture.”

The exhibition, which...