Photographs: Historical Australia Part 1

December 2017

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned that the following posting may contain images of deceased persons.


The last posting of the year, because I am feeling rather exhausted!


Unknown photographer. 'George St. from King St., Sydney' Nd


Unknown photographer
George St. from King St., Sydney



Down the rabbit hole we go… into the world of Australian historical photography.

In photographs that were taken around the same time, the contrast could not be more evident: horse and trap travelling down fashionable George Street, Sydney while donkey and cart in Outback Australia fetch water; Nicholas Caire’s King Billy’s camp in McCree’s Paddock, Maloga, Victoria – King Billy ‘The Last of His Tribe’, the final remnant of a dying race and J. W. Lindt’s Untitled [Two men in rural Victoria], old men with beards and hats, swag and billy, possibly itinerant travelling workers.

And so I have sequenced these images as best I could.

The white men stand implacably outside the courthouses while the Indigenous feet touch the earth. They fight for their country, win the Military Medal and can’t even vote. The courthouses of the colonial white, those massive edifices of the law, jurisdiction and punishment tied with Australian Aborigines in chains and Aboriginal youth Dylan Voller, 17, shackled to a metal chair by his hands, feet and neck and wearing a spithood at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in 2015. And so it goes…

Although there can be many contexts and interpretations within the photographic labyrinthine abyss, and even though these photographs were taken by colonial masters, the materiality of photography (as act of creation and as final printed product) and its relationship to the real is what is important here. These are beautiful photographs of peoples from the First Nations, peoples that all have their own specific names, and in many instances, speak/spoke their own specific language.

You only have to look at the boy standing at the back of the photograph Aboriginal family group to recognise how his direct looking transcends the fixed gaze of the camera, the male gaze, the white gaze and the colonial gaze. His gaze, his return of serve if you like, speaks to us through time – of an individual, valuable and empowered human being assured in his own self. No colour, jurisdiction nor race is necessary for us recognise him as such.


Many thankx to Dennis Joachim for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



“Think carefully: there can be no redundancy in photography, for a photograph, whatever it is, already speaks twice of time, once to seize it and another to say that it has passed; And there can be no trompe-l’oeil in it either; it is and will always be the mise en abyme par excellence; It is the mind that looks at the abyss, it is a piece of the abyss cut clear, with four right angles cut terribly sharp.”

Denis Roche




Trompe-l’œil (French for “deceive the eye”) is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. It refers to perspectival illusionism.

Mise en abyme

Mise en abyme is a French term derived from heraldry, and literally means “placed into abyss”. A common sense of the phrase is the visual experience of standing between two mirrors, then seeing as a result an infinite reproduction of one’s image. Another is the Droste effect, in which a picture appears within itself, in a place where a similar picture would realistically be expected to appear… In Western art history, “mise en abyme” is a formal technique in which an image contains a smaller copy of itself, in a sequence appearing to recur infinitely; “recursive” is another term for this.


Unknown artist. 'Richmond Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870-80s


Unknown photographer
Richmond Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s
Date built: 1877



Richmond is a town in New South Wales, in the local government area of the City of Hawkesbury. It is located on the alluvial Hawkesbury River flats, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. It is about 65 km by road from Sydney.

Richmond Court House and Police Station is located at 288 Windsor Street, Richmond NSW. The present building was designed by Colonial Architect, James Barnet in 1877 as a court house with associated police station. The front entrance is via an attractive arched colonnade with feature brickwork and the roof is supported by bracketed eaves. The raised roof of the court room may be seen in the centre of the structure. Note the similarity in style with the adjacent former post office, also the work of James Barnet. It replaced the watch-house built by William Cox in 1827. The watch-house was a four roomed structure with a detached kitchen. One of the rooms was barred and secure for the custody of prisoners. The other rooms were for the policeman on duty. The rear of the site was set aside for the first stock pound in the town. The court house is still in use but the Police Local Area Command is located in the nearby town of Windsor.

Text from the Hawkesbury.org website


Alphonse Chargois (1860-1936) 'Cumjam Murdered Ferguson at Mentana March 1894' 1894


Alphonse Chargois (1860-1936)
Cumjam Murdered Ferguson at Mentana March 1894
Albumen print
16 x 10


Chargois, Alphonse. (father of Herbert Chargois. died Nov 1936)
Townsville, Qld 1879
Croydon, Qld 1892 – 96
Normanton, Qld 1896 – 97
Townsville, Qld 1897
McArthur St, Croydon Qld (base) 1898 – 1913
Georgetown, Qld (trav) 1900
Torres Strait Islands, Qld (trav) Oct 1913
“Touring the South” 1913 – 15
(owned Bicycle Business, Warwick, Qld, 1915, advertised for sale Feb 1915)
“Royal Studio”
“late Lyne Brown, McTaggart and Dobson”
Lake St, Cairns, Qld July 1915 – 36
(bought McTaggart & Dobson’s studio, July 1915)
Mareeba, Qld (trav) Oct 1915
(estate publicly Auctioned up Oct 1947)



Cumjam standing in front of a government issue tent. Cumjam was arrested for the murder of Mr Ferguson (aged 60) who worked for Donald Mclntyre at Mentana Station. Ferguson’s murder and the capture of Cumjam were reported widely in the Norman Chronicle, The North Queensland Register and The Brisbane Courier between 1894-1895. Records detailing the outcome of his arrest have not been located.


“An Aboriginal Desperado”

The “Norman Chronicle” says: “By the last mail we received from Mr. Chargois, who is at present at Delta, two photos of the blackboy “Cumjam.” who is supposed to have murdered Ferguson at Mentana in March, 1894. The details of the capture as given by Mr. Chargois are as follows: ‘Mr Jack Adford, who has been managing Loch-na-gar for Mr. McInytre, had received instructions to move cattle to Daigonally, and wishing to bring over with him some of the native curios, he told the blacks, ‘Me go away by-and-by take away altogether bullock, you fetch ’em up spear, shell, boomerang, me give you tumbac. Me come back one moon.’ One moon goes by and the blacks were there to the number of about 50, eager to exchange their native gear for tobacco. All were up at the station except one, who stayed at the camp, and Jack Alford, wishing to know why he do so, asked the others, ‘What name boy sit down longa camp?’ ‘That fellow name ‘Cumjam’; he sick long a cobra.’ Alford at once recognised the murdered of Ferguson, although he gave no sign of his discovery, but said to the other, ‘Poor fellow, you go fetch em up, me give him medicine make him alright.’ ‘Cumjam’ was accordingly conducted up. ‘What name belongs you?’ said Alford. ‘Cumjam,’ replied the black. Alford decided at once upon his plan of action, told the other blacks to step back and site down, then taking Cumjam aside he seized him and with the help of his own boys bound him up. The other blacks, not liking the look of things, began to get uneasy, and slipped away one by one down to the creek, leaving Cumjam captured. It was no easy task to bring him along. He ate through one strap, and when that was replaced by a chain and padlock he managed somehow to pick the latter to pieces.’ The photo which we have on view shows the prisoner to be securely bound.”

The North Queensland Register 16 October 1895

Text from the Thagaalbi: History of Australia’s Indigenous people Facebook page


The presence of Europeans along the gulf coast and south-western areas of the Peninsula was met with Aboriginal resistance. When J.T. Embley surveyed the Mitchell River in 1886-7 he counted “skirmishes with the blacks” to have been the cause of delays in the completion of his work.136 The death of Ferguson, an elderly white stockman, in March 1894 followed his spearing on Mentana station by the Aboriginal, Cumjam.137 Only a few months before Ferguson’s death one party of survivors of the steamship, Kanahooka, after its capsize off the Mitchell River in January 1894, were able to make their way through the Kokobera country through to safety at Mentana station.138 This was despite popular fears that they would be exposed to the “hostility of the blacks”.139

Philip L. Freier. Living with the ‘Munpitch’: The history of Mitchell River Mission, 1905 – 1967. James Cook University, Dr of Philosophy Thesis, 1999, pp. 86-87.


Unknown artist. 'Windsor Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870-80s


Unknown photographer
Windsor Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s
Date built: 1821



Windsor is a town lying North-West of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Windsor is located in the local government area of the City of Hawkesbury. It sits on the Hawkesbury River, on the north-western outskirts of the Sydney metropolitan area.

Windsor Courthouse is a rare surviving Colonial Georgian public building that originally dates from the early nineteenth century. The building has a fine and impressive form which uses an adapted Palladian plan to suit the Australian climate. It is of considerable historical, social and aesthetic significance as one of the earliest surviving courthouse buildings in Australia. The courthouse now [1967] ranks as Greenway’s best preserved building. The Building and Maintenance Branch of the NSW Department of Public Works carried out restoration work in 1961 to remove unsympathetic rendering of the external brickwork which was an attempt to reduce the problem of damp. The building now stands in its original and unspoiled form in Windsor, the most prosperous and successful of the towns then founded by Governor Macquarie. The courthouse was insisted upon by Governor Macquarie, designed by Greenway (himself originally a convict) and built for A₤1,800 by William Cox, using convict labour. It is a combination and the result of all the forces directly at play during the Australia’s early development. The oldest existing local court in New South Wales. Cox later served at Windsor as a magistrate.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Unknown photographer. 'Pitt St. looking S. from Bridge St., Sydney' 1895


Unknown photographer
Pitt St. looking S. from Bridge St., Sydney
Albumen print


Unknown photographer. 'Getting Water' 1892


Unknown photographer
Getting Water
Albumen prints


Unknown photographer. '"At the well" Station Hands' 1892


Unknown photographer
“At the well” Station Hands
Albumen print


Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal ceremony]' c. 1892


Unknown photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal ceremony]
c. 1892
Albumen print


Unknown photographer. 'Court House Bathurst N S Wales, Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870-80s


Unknown photographer
Court House Bathurst N S Wales, Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s
Date built: 1880



Bathurst is a regional city in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. It is about 200 kilometres north-west of Sydney.

Bathurst Courthouse is one of the finest Victorian Court House buildings in New South Wales. Built as part of a precinct of Victorian public buildings, it is a landmark building prominently sited in the town centre of Bathurst. The building has a lengthy association with the provision of justice in the district. The wings, built as the postal and telegraph offices, were opened in 1877. The entire structure is 81 metres (266 ft) long and 45 metres (148 ft) wide. The west wing is now occupied by the Central Western Music Centre. The east wing is now the Historical Society Museum.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Unknown photographer. 'King Billy Maloga' Nd


Nicholas Caire (1837-1918, photographer)
King Billy Maloga (King Billy’s camp in McCree’s Paddock, Maloga, Victoria)



Photograph of four Aboriginal Australians, two men and two women, seated on ground in front of a shelter. Older man on left holds wooden sticks or spears, and a dog sits next to him. The three main local tribes were named after their “country” (or district), being “Burrumbeet” from Lakes Burrumbeet and Learmonth, “Keyeet” from Mt Buninyong and “Tooloora” from Mt Warrenheip and Lal Lal Creek. The last well recognised leader of the district, was “King Billy” from Burrumbeet, whose death surprisingly made the newspapers in mining areas and big cities right round the country.

Ballarat’s Mullawallah (also known as King Billy or Frank Wilson), was buried in 1896 to considerable civic interest as a result of being nominated as ‘The Last of His Tribe’.


J. W. Lindt. 'Untitled [Two men in rural Victoria]' c. 1880s


J. W. Lindt (John William 1845-1926, Melbourne, photographer)
Untitled [Two men in rural Victoria]
c. 1880s
Cabinet card
Albumen print



John William Lindt (1845-1926), photographer, was born at Frankfurt on Main, Germany, son of Peter Joseph Lindt, excise officer, and his wife Justine, née Rambach. At 17 he ran away to sea and joined a Dutch sailing ship. He deserted at Brisbane; by 1863 he was at Grafton as a piano-tuner and then worked in a photographic studio. He visited Germany in 1867 and on his return bought the business. Using the wet-plate process he photographed the Clarence River district and its Aboriginals, producing albums in 1875 and 1876. He then sold out and went to Melbourne where he opened a studio in Collins Street. He soon won repute for his society, theatre and landscape photographs. In 1880 he photographed the capture of the Kelly gang at Glenrowan. When the first commercial dry plates arrived in Melbourne he went to Europe to seek agencies for the latest photographic equipment. On his return he worked in the studio and the Victorian countryside; many of his photographs were used in the railways. He also designed and modified cameras as well as ‘advising in matters photographic’.

Read the full biography on the Australian Dictionary of Biography website


Unknown photographer. 'Darlinghurst Gaol & Court House, Sydney Oct. 1870' 1870


Unknown photographer
Darlinghurst Gaol & Court House, Sydney Oct. 1870
Date built: 1844



The Darlinghurst Court House and residence is the finest, and only erudite Old Colonial Grecian public building complex surviving in Australia. Commenced in the 1830s, it has a long and continual association with the provision of law and order along with the neighbouring Darlinghurst Gaol complex. The imposing sandstone building is prominently sited at Taylor Square. The Court House, designed by Lewis and built between 1837 and 1844, is the first purpose designed court house to be built in NSW. The pavilions on either side were designed by Barnet around 1886. The extension facing Victoria Street was designed by the Government Architect’s Office and completed c. 1963. The central block was adapted from an 1823 design in Peter Nicholson’s ‘The New Practical Builder’.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Australian Aborigines in chains]' Nd


Unknown photographer
Untitled [Australian Aborigines in chains]
Albumen print


Dylan Voller


Aboriginal youth Dylan Voller, 17, shackled to a metal chair by his hands, feet and neck and wearing a spithood at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in 2015


Unknown artist. 'Unknown Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870s


Unknown photographer
Unknown Courthouse, Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s


Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal man smoking a pipe]' Nd


Unknown photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal man smoking a pipe]


Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal making fire]' Nd


Unknown photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal making fire]


Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal with spear]' Nd


Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal with spear]


Edwards & Errington (Adelaide, South Australia) 'Studio portrait of 2597 Private (Pte) Frederick Prentice, 12th Battalion, and later 1st Australian Pioneer Battalion' (detail) c. 1914 - 1918


Edwards & Errington (Adelaide, South Australia)
Studio portrait of 2597 Private (Pte) Frederick Prentice, 12th Battalion, and later 1st Australian Pioneer Battalion (detail)
c. 1914 – 1918
Gelatin silver print on postcard



Northern Territory born WWI veteran Frederick Prentice, an Indigenous serviceman who won the Military Medal. On the verso of the photograph is an original message “Just a little card to remember the good times at Paratoo.” This postcard was sent to a friend, Gertrude Fitzgerald, who he knew at Paratoo, SA. Born in Powells Creek, Northern, NT, on 18 January 1894, Frederick Prentice was educated at Kyre College (later part of Scotch College), Adelaide, from 1905 to 1908. Following schooling, Prentice worked as a station hand and was employed at Manunda Station, South Australia at the time of his enlistment on 7 May 1915 in Keswick. Pte Prentice won a Military Medal for his actions on 19 July 1916 at Pozieres, France, where he showed great courage, resource and ability in bringing machine guns and ammunition through the enemy barrage in the dark and across broken ground. Frederick Prentice returned to Australia as a Corporal on 12 May 1919.

Text from the Australian War Memorial website


Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal with scars]' Nd


Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal with scars]


Kerry & Co., (Sydney) 'Aboriginal chief' c. 1900-1917


Kerry & Co., (Sydney)
Aboriginal chief
c. 1900-1917
13.7 × 8.5 cm (image and sheet)


Portrait of Aboriginal chief, Barron River, Queensland, with body paint and head decorations, in ceremonial dress.


Unknown photographer. 'Court House Orange N.S.W., Courthouses of New South Wales' c. 1870-80s


Unknown photographer
Court House Orange N.S.W., Courthouses of New South Wales
c. 1870-80s
Date built: 1883



“On a site where local Wiradjuri people are said to have once held corroborees stands the Orange court House. A slab and bark watch-house was erected in 1849 and used as a court house from 1851. Early church services and the first council meetings were held. A larger sandstone Court House was erected in 1860-62 by Kennard and Snow. Bushranger Ben Hall was tried here in the early 1860s. This building made way for the present Neo-classical building designed by James Barnet in 1883. A new wing was constructed a the rear of the site in 2001.” Orange Heritage Trail, a pamphlet produced by Ross Maroney in conjunction with the Orange City Council, the Orange Visitor Information Centre.

The current Orange Courthouse building was designed by the Colonial Government Architect James Barnet. Construction was completed in 1883. Previous buildings existed on the site, the first being erected in 1847, around the time of the town’s settlement, and operated as a Court of Petty Sessions, being the usual arrangements in those times. Orange was proclaimed a municipality in 1860, the first meeting being held in the Courthouse, located on the same site as today, but a different structure.

Text from the Willshub website 2 Jan 2015 [Online] Cited 20 November 2017


Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal group]' Nd


Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal group]


Anonymous photographer. 'Untitled [Aboriginal family group]' Nd


Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal family group]


Alphonse Chargois (1860-1936) 'Daisy Belle, Jack Kinmont Moir and Rose-Marie, Delta Downs' Nd


Alphonse Chargois (1860-1936)
Daisy Belle, Jack Kinmont Moir and Rose-Marie, Delta Downs
14 x 10.5 cm




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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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