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SHADES OF LIGHT online

Based on text from the original book: Shades of Light: Photography and Australia 1839-1988
Gael Newton, 1988 Australian National Gallery

CHAPTER 5                           CONSOLIDATION

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Portraits and views, 1860-1880

Views had been made during the daguerreotype era and quite regularly after the introduction of collodiotypes in the early 1850s. However their sale did not become an industry until the mid 1860s. From that time on most of the major towns and cities were provided with views of civic monuments, public works and local scenery, and their citizens with cheap carte-de-visite portraits. Both the daguerreotype and ambrotype had been displaced by the now standard albumen print.

The large albumen prints of the 1860s were characteristically rich brown-purple in tone and glossy. They were sold for framing or, more frequently, for compilation in albums. Bound albums of views were commonly advertised from the mid 1860s. Stereograph views remained popular in the early 1860s but the availability of large paper views seems to have dampened the market in the later years of the decade. However, by 1865 Hobart photographer Samuel Clifford (1827-1890), who had begun work with the 1858-1859 generation of collodion photographers, had some seven hundred stereograph views in stock 'taken in all parts of the island'(1).

The new views trade supported a subsidiary industry in the production of albums, both for views and portraits, and novel display stands which could be concertinaed or fanned out to show a number of portraits. The albums, which were often elaborately tooled and gilded, could be bought as stock items or specially made to the client's design.

In the late 1860s as paper photographs became more common, the private album became something of a work of art in its own right. Collectors could express their own taste, not only by their choice of pictures, but by their arrangement and embellishment of them. Benjamin Greene's album of photographs collected on his travels in the 1860s is superbly bound in green leather with gold clasps, and sections are decorated with calligraphy and watercolours(2).

Helen Lambert, the wife of Commodore Rowley Lambert, who was head of the Australian Naval Station, appears to have been an amateur photographer. A number of photographs attributed to her are included in albums compiled by English amateur photographer Viscountess Frances Jocelyn (1820-1880) and titled "Who and what we saw in the Antipodes"(3). In addition to exhibiting her own prints, Jocelyn assembled them, and those of other professional and amateur photographers, into collages with witty painted decorations. One tableau shows the daughters of Edward Deas Thompson in fancy dress after attending the Sydney ball to celebrate the visit of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria, to Australia in 1867.

The group was photographed on the portico of Elizabeth Bay House with a view of the harbour behind. Viscountess Jocelyn added some decoration appropriate to the costumes and with a flick of the brush the scene was transformed into an eastern fantasy.

Such irreverent playing with paper photographs must have been quite liberating. A contemporaneous album of Queensland views by an unknown photographer and compiler, contains portraits of members of the Deas Thompson family. Several pages show elaborate collages of photographs of Aboriginals with garlands of floral decoration and even a poem. It is one of the few images to suggest an arcadian life for the Aboriginal people. In painting, Aboriginals were often shown as they had lived before the white man's conquest but few photographs attempted such imagery(4).

Mosaics had appeared in the late 1850s although the 1860s-1870s efforts were far more ambitious than these first attempts. Melbourne photographer Thomas F. Chuck (c. 1844-1898) produced a huge mosaic of over one thousand portraits titled Explorers and early colonists of Victoria in 1872(5). Townsend Duryea made a giant mosaic in 1871 of 520 men attending a banquet given in Adelaide by the merchant E. Solomon. Henry Jones followed with another of men of South Australia(6). These are not as amusing however, as the expediency shown in a painting by James Shaw (1815-1881) of Adelaide, who stuck tiny photographic portraits on the faces of all the guests photographed while attending a major ball in Adelaide in 1866(7).

Without doubt the greatest mosaic of the nineteenth century was made later in 1885 by B.C. Boake (1838-1921) on the occasion of the return of the Australian Contingent from the war in the Sudan. Portraits of some of the men swirl around the main expedition leaders like the rings of Saturn, and the photographs are stuck onto a black and gilt banner some 175 by 200 centimetres. It was Boake's finest hour as a photographer(8).

As the private and commercially produced albums developed in the 1860s, original prints were also used to illustrate printed books. Most of the Australian books in this genre are modest affairs with portrait photographs in the frontispiece(9). One of the earliest and most ambitious was produced by Louisa Anne Meredith in Hobart in 1866, titled, Souvenir of the Masques of Christmas, and of The Old and New Year, 'written and designed by Louisa Anne Meredith'. Presented at Government House, Tasmania, January 18, 1866. Eight original prints by Charles A. Woolley (1834-1922), a Hobart photographer and Major Thomas Wingate (d.1869), an amateur painter and photographer from Sydney, recorded the costume tableaux(10).

An unknown photographer staged or recorded a series of tableaux from 1867 to 1868, illustrating the work of the Benedictine monks at the New Norcia Mission in Western Australia. The brothers are shown teaching their Aboriginal charges various trades, and participating in religious rites. Some of these photographs were used in later publications but their original purpose is not clear. Bishop Salvado who founded the Monastery seems to have encouraged the recording of the mission work through photography, and his brother, Santos, had been a photographer in Spain before arriving in New Norcia in the 1870s(11).

Townsend Duryea in Adelaide included a tiny portrait of himself as an advertisement for his studio in J. Boothby's Adelaide Almanac and Directory for South Australia of 1865(12). In general the use of photography for advertising was rare in the 1860s.

The visit of Prince Alfred, the first member of the British Royal Family to visit the Australian colonies, produced souvenir books illustrated with original photographs from his visits to Adelaide and Melbourne in 1867-1868(13). Royalty was already popular as subjects in commercial cartes but the actual Royal presence caused fierce competition between photographers who were eager to secure rights to photograph the Prince. Duryea was successful in Adelaide and thus earned the distinction of making the first Australian photographs of British Royalty.

A cartoon n the Sydney Punch of 5 October 1867 by cartoonist and photographer J. Montague Scott (w.1861-1885) satirised the less fortunate photographers trying to get pictures. The image suggests that the press photographer was a phenomenon of the 1860s but this is perhaps misleading. Events were difficult to capture because of movement, especially with crowds. Samuel Clifford, an official photographer in Hobart took a series of the Prince outdoors including a crowd scene, and even his bedroom, but most images of the Prince were the official portraits(14). Other celebrities made their appearance in the 1860s, and production of their portraits as cartes became a genre in its own right.

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Charles Nettleton (1826—1902) who had come from England in 1855 in search of a better climate and to try his luck on the goldfields, was able to photograph the first English team to visit Australia in 1861(15) and another ambitious photographer took a picture of the tumultuous crowds outside the Café de Paris in Melbourne awaiting the team's arrival(16). The Australian public however, did not appear very well in photographs until later developments in the 1880s considerably shortened exposure times.

The infamous were popular early subjects. Henry Pohl of Wangaratta sold large numbers of his grisly cartes-de-visites of the dead bushranger Mad Dog Morgan in 1865, having improved the photograph by putting a gun in the outlaw's hand and propping his eyes open(17). Various murder cases were also covered such as the Kinder case of 1861. A pamphlet account could be had for a little extra, with photographs of the parties involved(18). A complete album of cartes related to the long-running trials concerning the claim of Arthur Orton, butcher of Wagga Wagga to be the heir of Lady Tichborne in England, was also available(19).

Photographs of specific events probably had little sales value as prints but served to advertise the photographer. The photographs were placed in his street showcase or provided to the newspaper for use in illustration(20). Whereas painting in these years seems predominantly landscape or portraiture the views trade subject matter tended to parallel that of the illustrated papers and journals and include more topical matters. This market exploded after the introduction of photomechanical reproduction in books in the 1880s and newspapers in the 1890s.

Commissions became an important source of income in the 1860s with politicians being among the earliest to perceive the value of becoming immortalised in photographs. Twelve members of the South Australian Legislative Assembly were photographed for a special album in 1868. While the settings remain simple: a desk and chair, each man has been given a character of his own. The large size and rich tones of the albumen prints support the self important air of the public figures(21).

Groups also began to be photographed on location. Founding Father of Melbourne, John Pascoe Fawkner, was photographed with other members of the Fitzroy Police Court on 3 November 1862(22). One of the most striking efforts is the portrait of Professor George Halford conducting an anatomy class in 1864 at the Melbourne Medical School - complete with cadavre whose head is some distance from the body.

Hand-colouring of paper photographs became part of most portrait studios and often featured in exhibitions. In 1864, an unusual process was introduced by Charles Wilson who claimed to hold the patent right from Mr Senno. The process, called sennotype, involved making two identical prints, the top one being waxed and the bottom broadly hand coloured. The effect, when both prints were in register, was to give an appearance of considerable solidity and relief. Only half a dozen photography studios offered sennotypes and not always with a licence from Wilson, who found like previous patent holders, that a good deal of time was spent defending his rights(23).

Alfred Bock in Hobart was an official user of the process and his claim to fame as a photographer really rests on the quality of his sennotypes. These usually have a green label with his name and a description of the process on the back.

Albums of views both large and small steadily increased from the mid 1860s. There seems to have been a slight hiatus after the first burst of productions on a grand scale in the late I850s. Stereograph views were more popular than cartes as commercial sets. As with the Royal Tour, gaining commissions was one means of securing an edge over the competition from the ever-increasing numbers of studios. The bigger studios attracted government contracts to provide views for major exhibitions and to document the exhibitions as well(24).

In Adelaide, Townsend Duryea had entered the collodion trade by 1855 when he advertised 'all the new Processes on Glass and Paper,'(25) and was offering an album of views for sale, including a 4.3 metre panorama of Adelaide taken in 1867(26).

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Charles Nettleton

Charles Nettleton was one of the most prolific and accomplished of the new generation of views photographers. He reputedly photographed the first train journey in Melbourne in 1854(27) and thereafter developed connections with work for government departments. By 1868 Nettleton had released an album of views of Melbourne containing twelve photographs(28). He had already had considerable success with his views exhibited at the Intercolonial Exhibitions of 1862 and 1866. By the mid 1870s Nettleton had established a reputation for urban views, particularly those of public works. He seems to have had an aptitude for industrial subjects and improved his technique to the point of delineating these with great clarity and precision.

Nettleton produced a number of panoramas in the I860s, one of which was used as the basis for a lithograph by De Gruchy and Leigh(29). In his large album prints of the mid to late I870s of views of shipping at Queens Wharf, the Drops at Caliban waterworks and the waterworks at Geelong, Malmsbury and Yean Yan. Nettleton's ability to handle complex structures with great depth of field and fine detail is clear(30).

Nettleton's classical approach to photographs of construction is similar to that of his counterpart in Sydney, Charles Pickering (w, 1856-1870s) although Pickering's works are simpler and more direct with less of Nettleton's fondness for deep diagonal divisions of the space. In 1870 Pickering was commissioned to photograph public works for the Government Architect James Barnet. The prints were for the London Exhibition of 1873(31). He had previously been official photographer to the Metropolitan Intercolonial Exhibition of 1870. The Government Printing Office acquired the negatives and made up an album of the views in 1872, thus beginning the development of an archive still in existence at the present premises of the Office(32).

Pickering's architectural and urban views are austere documents in which the city of Sydney looks rather like a Renaissance town as new buildings in this style rise. By the time John Sharkey (w, 1863-1888), the head of the Photographic Branch of the Printing Office began a large series of views of Sydney buildings and streets, the Printing Office equipment included a wide-angle lens camera. It was used, a little indiscriminately it seems to make more dramatic views. In contrast to Nettleton and Noone in Melbourne, Pickering and Sharkey in particular favoured more atmosphere.

These photographs were not for sale but for presentation to distinguished visitors and other appropriate persons, such as government officers and politicians. Direct sale to the public would have caused controversy with photographers.

Survey offices and Lands Departments were among the first government departments in the 1860s to include photography in their work. By the I880s it was common practice for departments to use photographs, and Melbourne and Sydney as the largest urban centres were the most active.

In little over a decade from its introduction in Australia, the collodiotype had facilitated the rise of the views trade to such an extent that by the mid 1860s some photographers like Captain Sweet in Adelaide and Charles Walter in Victoria could advertise as specialist landscape photographers. Photographers had been travelling around the country making both portraits and views from the earliest years, but their income rested on the portrait.

City-based studios specialising in urban views, local scenery and pastoral properties such as Samuel Clifford in Hobart, Townsend Duryea and George Freeman (1842—1910)(33) in Adelaide, Charles Pickering in Sydney, Charles Nettleton in Melbourne and Geo P. Wright (w. 1874—1883) in Queensland, developed by the mid 1860s, with portraiture as an equally important part of their work.

The collodiotype was a means but not a single cause of the role photography began to play in the mid to late nineteenth century. Photography was also seen as having the aesthetic, moral and spiritual dimensions of the other arts. James Smith responded to Sun Pictures of Victoria in 1858 in a similar fashion to the way he did to paintings. The Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne in 1866 brought forth a review by 'Sol' that was published in the Australia Monthly Magazine. In his review 'A Wanderer Among the Photographic Views at the Intercolonial Exhibition' Sol chose to concentrate on landscape photography:

as a most important branch of an interesting and valuable art, which but seldom calls forth in these colonies the powers of a critic's pen, or attracts the attention of art worshippers. We should like to see here the foundation of a photographic society, which would keep this accomplishment more prominently before the public, and bring us more closely into communication with the followers of the art in England and America.

Samuel Clifford's stereographs gained Sol's warmest appreciation as 'delightful representations of nature being full of atmosphere yet true to nature in their details and perspective'(34).

At the beginning of the review, Sol expressed the opinion that photography provided an overview of the growth of settlements without the expenditure of time and money on a personal visit. Perhaps it was just such a spirit that supported the views trade. It is also at this time that illustrated magazines began to include articles and illustrations by travelling landscape photographer Charles Walter and serious efforts were made to provide photographs of remote regions and expeditions.

The small size of the stereograph camera and consequent faster speed of the plates made it particularly suited to outdoor work and for excursions beyond the city streets. In addition, various preservative processes enabled photographers to dispense with carrying chemicals to coat the wet plates. Short expeditions into the bush could thus be made by amateurs and professionals in search of views of remote scenic features. Many photographers continued to be itinerant or to make extended tours from their city bases selling portraits and views in regional areas. The carte-de-visite was used to make urban views and a new form of portrait in front of one's home or shop.


American and Australasian Photographic Company

One studio which became famous for its specialisation in house by house, shop by shop and town by town photography was the American and Australasian Photographic Company formed by English immigrant showman, Beaufoy Merlin (1830-1873) in 1866.(35) Whilst making house-front portraits Merlin attracted the attention of young Charles Bayliss (1850—1897) who had come from England as a child. Bayliss joined the firm as an apprentice and travelled with Merlin up through Victoria and New South Wales to Sydney where the A & A Co established a studio in 1870(36).

On arrival in Sydney in September 1870 the A & A Co advertisements claimed they were about to photograph every public building, shop, and private residence in Sydney as they had already:

photographed almost every house in Melbourne, and the other towns in Victoria. Within the past few months they have photographed all Yass, Braidwood and Queanbeyan, Goulburn etc, and they have just now completed taking nearly 800 views of Parramatta alone(37).

They claimed 'street photography' as their invention. Figures certainly appear in earlier photographs but were either posed or sitting still through the long exposures, but most photographs before the 1870s could not easily register moving figures. In 1872 the A & A Co moved operations to the goldfields at Hill End.

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J. W. Lindt

A particular extension of the views trade, that of press photography, is often traced to reporting of the capture of the gang of bushrangers led by Ned Kelly at Glenrowan, Victoria in 1880(38). Journalists, artists and photographers commissioned by the newspapers were permitted to join a special train of troopers and the official Victorian Government Photographer Mr Burman, sent in pursuit of the gang. By the time the train arrived Ned Kelly had been captured, having been seriously wounded in the early hours of the day. Joe Byrne, a member of his gang, had already died in the burning of the pub in which the gang was trapped.

The journalists could recreate the action they had missed by interviewing those present. The official photographer was occupied recording the grisly remains, including the body of Byrne that was slung up on the door of Benalla Police Station to facilitate photographic records. J. W. Lindt (1845—1926) was among the agents dispatched to the scene by the Melbourne newspapers(39). He chose to make an image recording Burman photographing Byrne and being watched by a group of onlookers. The artist Julian Ashton was also caught leaving the scene having already sketched Byrne in the cells.

The Lindt picture is a mystery for it seems to point to his understanding of the role press photography (although it was not published)(40) would have in the future or to the development of what today would be called 'a media event'.

Perhaps he was simply testing an exposure for his wet plates, however this process was not one that naturally encouraged haphazard shooting. A decision to take a picture preceded each image rather than a quick response to events unfolding in front of the camera. The first dry plates had already been imported into Australia and Lindt had been among the first to test the new plates as he also ran a supplies service in addition to his photographic work(41). Dry plates were made using gelatin as the medium for the light-sensitive salts and were faster than the wet collodion process and far less contrasty.

Press photography did not grow as a trade until after the introduction of direct photomechanical reproduction in the late I880s and 1890s. At first photographs were transferred to the woodblocks for the guidance of the engravers. Then, by the late 1890s, halftone photoengravings were being used in the Sydney Mail, and after 1894 specialist photomechanical firms called process works were being used by newspapers. The Electric Photo Engraving Co in Sydney supplied the illustrated paper the Sydney Mail until 1902, when the firm set up its own photographic department(42).

Government photographers supplying the printing offices had functioned a little like press photographers but it was not till after the turn of the century that journalists were sent out as correspondents to report and illustrate events. A.B. (Banjo) Paterson (1864-1941), for example, was dispatched to the Boer War in South Africa as the Mail's official photographer and journalist.


List of illustrations used in the original publication (captions may be abbreviated):

P.35: Album of cart-de-visites. 1860s-1880s.

P.36: Helen Lambert (Attributed) at Elizabeth Bay House, Sydney. 1868

P.37: Thomas F chuck: The explorers and early colonists of Victoria, 1872

P.38: Charles A Wooolley: Tableaux, 1866

P.38: J. Montague Scott: Sydney punch, 1867

P.39: Unknown: Dissecting, Melbourne University, 1864

P.40: Alfred Block: Portrait of Couple with dog, c.1864

P.41: Charles nettleton: Volunteer Fir Brigade, Ballarat. c.1867

P.41: NSW Printing Office: Picton viaduct, Stonequarry Creek, 1879

P.42: George Freeman: Port Adelaide Downstream, c.1860

P.43: J.W.Lindt: Body of Joe Byrne, Benalla 1880

P.44: Samual Clifford: Huts at the Springs, c.1860

 

 

 

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