Posts Tagged ‘Australian colonial photography

30
Dec
18

Photographs: ‘Australia’ Part 1

December 2018

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that this posting contains images and names of people who may have since passed away.

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Parlour, Broken Hill, New South Wales' 1895

 

Anonymous photographer
Parlour, Broken Hill, New South Wales
1895
Gelatin silver print

 

A German Rönisch piano with a copy of “A Country Girl” above the keyboard (I can’t find any reference online to this song?). To the right, a two-panel screen with Christmas cards, one with the words “Hearty Greetings” and another with the date “1895”.

 

 

The last posting for 2018 features a selection of Australian black and white photographs that belong to a friend of mine, who has kindly allowed me to scan and publish them. The images have been digitally cleaned after scanning. The titles of the photographs are annotated on the back of the images.

The photographs are mainly of pastoral, colonial, outback, station, homestead and mining life, and picture the remoteness of these properties and towns c. 1910s-1950s. They also evidence the nature of white, colonial, patriarchal society much in evidence on pastoral stations during this time period. Hardly a women appears in these photographs, and Indigenous Australians usually only appear as stockmen or trackers.

Of most interest to me are the photographs of Poolamacca Station, c. 1910.

In the first photograph, Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (below) what is going on in the photograph remains a bit of a mystery. A man lies, apparently comatose, on a mattress outside, on the ground, in the strong midday sun (note the short length of the shadows). The man to the right reaches forward to clasp his hand, while other men around clasp each other’s hands to form a circle around the body. Some men look down at the body on the mattress, others stare straight at the camera, smoking cigars. A handsome man with a moustache, on bended knee and wearing a waistcoat, third from left, smiles broadly at the camera. A man at the back of the group rests his head against the stone of the building, eyes closed, as though he is drunk. The length of the exposure can be judged by the several blurred figures, particularly of the man standing and the head of the man at right rear.

Several scenarios are possible: is the man lying on the mattress really ill? Is it some kind of religious play being performed on Christmas Day? Are they all drunk and mucking about? And/or is it some kind of game, a charade? The circle of hands suggests to me it is a type of friendship game for the person lying on the mattress, a bond between them all, a supposition reinforced by the handsome man smiling at the camera. If the situation were serious, he would not be smiling. The second photograph, taken at the same time (before or afterwards?), features the men now accompanied by women, piled high on a cart pulled by four horses. At left behind the front horses can be seen what I believe is the same corrugated iron and building that appears at left in the first image. We can only guess the narrative in the first photograph because we do not have enough clues. Nevertheless, the photograph and its story remain a fascinating mystery.

The third and fourth photographs also tell an enigmatic story. Again, they have both been taken at the same time, as can be seen by the same riveted water tank behind each group in the photographs. The same fair-haired child also appears at right in the first photograph and sitting in his mother’s lap in the second photograph. From the length of his white apron, the white man in the photograph is possibly a cook or butcher at Poolamacca Station. The photographs also put lie to George Dutton’s claim that “in 1910 there was only two boys left” at Poolamacca Station (see extract from The Mutawintji research project report below).

What we have here is, possibly, an interracial marriage or partnership, a frontier marriage? whose Australian

“… boundary-crossing lovers are still omitted from the historical memory of the nation. Despite their long-term, cross-generational legacies, these unions virtually became a secret of state. …

These lovers generated families at the core of the cultural and historical interface that became the Australian nation. However, the young coloniser state did not like it.

From the coming of Federation until the 1960s, love affairs between Aboriginal people and others were severely restricted across all of northern Australia. Queensland moved rapidly to curb courtship and marriage between white Australian men and Aboriginal women. Western Australia and the Northern Territory followed. That didn’t mean that relationships stopped. Love often prevailed. …

Police and missionary enforcers placed white working class men living with Aboriginal women under sexual surveillance, forcing them to either apply for permits or be arrested. Many were fined or jailed. The Chief Protectors, who had the power to decide who could marry whom, regularly refused their written requests to marry.

Although largely untouched by the new laws, magistrates, pastoralists, police and missionaries also fell in love with Aboriginal women. It was not uncommon for cattle station owners and managers to practice a form of cross-frontier polygamy, sustaining relationships with both a white wife and an Aboriginal woman. …

Australian lovers who were willing to cross these punitive marriage bars showed an uncommon courage. Out of this “illicit love” came new generations who carry on the battles for their ancestors and their communities. Some are the very same people who are required today to justify their Aboriginality because of mixed descent. They have to keep explaining who they are and why they are speaking out.1

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What these rare photographs speak of is a love, an intimacy, and affection within a family unit. Just look at the gentleness as the man holds the child’s hands and the smile on the mother’s face. It is just a gorgeous photograph of love and happiness between white and black, of a smiling women with her children. Passed down through time, it is a privilege to be able to look, to understand, to feel the power of this relationship all of these years later.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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All of these photographs have been digitally cleaned. Many thankx to my friend Daniel for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Professor Ann McGrath. “Celebrating white men and their black lovers,” on The Sydney Morning Herald website [Online] Cited 30/12/2018

 

 

1910s Australia

Anonymous photographer. 'Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Christmas Day, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Christmas guests, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Christmas guests, Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Poolamacca Station

It is situated about 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of Broken Hill and 174 kilometres (108 mi) north east of Mannahill at the eastern end of the Barrier Range adjoining Sturts Meadows. The station currently occupies an area of 40,000 acres (16,187 ha). The abandoned township of Tarrawingee is situated within the boundaries of the station.

The property was established in the 1860s with the first owners of the run being Messrs Jones and Goode. In 1867 a shepherd staged a hoax with a white quartz gold find that lead to an aborted gold rush to the area. The first property in the area was Mount Gipps Station In 1865 with Corona, Mundi Mundi and Poolamacca being established shortly afterward. Sidney Kidman worked at Poolamacca during the 1870s as a boundary rider and stockman.

In 1877 the property was put up for auction by the trustees of the estate of Messrs E. M. Bagot and G. Bennett. At this stage the property was approximately 900 square miles (2,331 km2) in size along with a flock of 34,906 sheep. The property comprised ten separate runs including the 64,000 acre Bijerkerno run to the 25,000 acre Torrowangee run.

John Brougham acquired a half share in Poolamacca in 1889 and later secured the lease outright. Brougham remained at Poolamacca until 1915 when he moved to Adelaide. In 1892 approximately 50 Aboriginal people, were moved to Poolamacca station which under the regime of the late owner, Mr J. Brougham, constituted a sanctuary for the last remaining Aboriginal inhabitants of the Barrier Ranges and adjacent areas.

The lease was later split into two properties: Poolamacca and Wilangee in the 1920s. Moss Smith sold the property in 1927 to the Pastoral company of Adelaide following the death of his daughter whose body was found buried in a warren in Poolamacca late the year before after she had gone missing for four months.

In 2002 the property was acquired by the Indigenous Land Corporation with the title holders being the Wilyakali Aboriginal Corporation when the property occupied an area of 507 square kilometres (196 sq mi).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sydney Poolamacca map

 

Sydney to Poolamacca map, New South Wales, Australia

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales' c. 1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Poolamacca Station, north of Broken Hill, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Extracts from The Mutawintji research project

Keith Brougham, the son of John Brougham, the owner of Poolamacca (and brother of John Brougham Jnr of Gnalta station, now part of Mutawintji National Park), describes how the first pastoralists mapped out their original station boundaries by including the best waterholes:

The wild aborigines were a help by following their tracks, as they knew of any existing water away from the river… One old aborigine who claims to be from one of the wild tribes told me the walkabout was a good sign to watch for – at that time a mob were having a hunt for a new hunting ground and had camped about midday. While they were stopped a pregnant woman had a baby there. Next day they were off again, mother and child and went straight to a waterhole, which the white people found by following their tracks (Brougham, K.W.C. 1920, West of the Darling, MS, State Library of South Australia, p. 14)

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… In 1862, the area north-west of Mt Murchison on the Darling River near present day Wilcannia was still frontier country. Mt Gipps station7, set up in 1865 (Kearns 1982), was the first station in the Broken Hill area. It included the country to the north of Broken Hill and the hill that was to become the Broken Hill mine and city. Mt Gipps was followed soon after by Poolamacca, Corona and Mundi Mundi.

No actual descriptions of the annexation of Mutawintji by pastoralists have been found so far, but as permanent waterholes are few to the north-west of the Darling River, descriptions of the annexure of other important water sources such as Yancannia in the mid 1860s suggest that there was likely to have been conflict. Yancannia station, to the north of Mutawintji, had been established by 1865 and contemporary accounts describe conflict with the local Aboriginal people. By 1872 the Aboriginal people of Yancannia gave the owners “very little trouble” and “a few of them [were] very useful” (Reid in Shaw, M.T. 1987, Yancannia Creek, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, p. 104).

.
Dr Jeremy Beckett, Dr Luise Hercus, Dr Sarah Martin (edited by Claire Colyer). The Mutawintji research project report. MUTAWINTJI: Aboriginal Cultural Association with Mutawintji National Park. Published in 2008 by the Office of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW), pp. 9-10.

 

It is clear from the Bonney records that people moved backwards and forwards between Yancannia, Momba, Tarella, Wonnaminta, Poolamacca and Gnalta/Mootwingee stations from the 1860s and through the 1880s. Bonney lists about 44 people as living at Momba and Tarella around 1881; some of the people from Momba have been traced and the descendents of some of the people Bonney described are Aboriginal owners of Mutawintji National Park. …

In 1892 about 50 Aboriginal people, including Outalpa George, were camped near Olary. At about this time they moved to Poolamacca station which “under the regime of the late owner, Mr J. Brougham, constituted a sanctuary for the last remaining Aboriginal inhabitants of the Barrier Ranges and adjacent areas” (Mawson, D. and Hossfeld, P.S. 1926, ‘Relics of Aboriginal Occupation in the Olary District’, Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 50, pp. 17-25).

Keith Brougham, the son of John Brougham, writes about the 1890s:

[in] 1892 [at] Poolamacca … we were amazed by the number of Aboriginals that were there…. I had a boy mate staying with me and about two hundred blacks were camped in a sort of inlet in the hills of Silverton Hill, as it was called west of the homestead … The Aboriginals were practically in their wild state and did not speak our language (Brougham MS n.d, p.1)

… cotton dresses, high coloured and a great favourite of the [women] went as soon as they were landed, and olive oil for the [women’s] hair, always in demand (Brougham MS n.d, p.2).

[the Aboriginal people] were very handy in the woolshed at shearing time. The [women] did all the piece picking and men on the tables and picking up. The pickers were excellent at their job and all had a good eye, male and female (Brougham MS n.d, p.3)

… At Poolamacca my mother … employed a … girl who was neat and tidy, an extra good worker, and in 1896 she was really good (Brougham MS n.d, p.12)

… [at] Euriowie we had a lot of aboriginals working in the creeks surrounding this country picking up slugs of pure tin and bagging it (Brougham MS n.d, p.23).

.
The APB [Aboriginal Protection Board] minutes recorded between 1890 and 1901 seldom mention the Mutawintji area. The only stations in the far north-west that received help from the APB were Poolamacca, occasionally Sturts Meadows, and the fringe camps at Milparinka, Tibooburra, Wanaaring and Wilcannia. The only station that consistently received rations throughout 1890-1901 was Poolamacca. Sturts Meadows (just to the west of Mutawintji) received rations in 1893, 1897 and 1898. Most stations either managed to fully employ the Aboriginal people living there or provided food and clothing of some sort without asking for compensation. …

During John Brougham’s time at Poolamacca during the 1890s and early 1900s, the station was something of a sanctuary for Aboriginal people but many had moved on by the time the Brougham family left. Some followed the Broughams to Gnalta station (now part of Mutawintji National Park) while others went to stations like Yancannia, where a large number of Aboriginal people lived and worked (Shaw, M.T. 1987, Yancannia Creek, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne). …

According to George Dutton, who was born on Yancannia station, there was a sizeable Aboriginal population at Poolamacca until about 1910, but almost none thereafter. George Dutton told Jeremy Beckett:

“At Poolamacca in 1901 there was a big mob of blackfellas, two hundred men without the women and kids. When I went back in 1910 there was only two boys left and graves all round” (Beckett, J. 1978, ‘George Dutton’s Country: Portrait of an Aboriginal Drover’, Aboriginal History, vol. 2 (1), pp. 19).

.
Dr Jeremy Beckett, Dr Luise Hercus, Dr Sarah Martin (edited by Claire Colyer). The Mutawintji research project report. MUTAWINTJI: Aboriginal Cultural Association with Mutawintji National Park. Published in 2008 by the Office of the Registrar, Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW), pp. 14-16.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales' c. 1910-20

 

Anonymous photographer
Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales
c. 1910-20
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales' c. 1910-20 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910-20
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales' c. 1910-20 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Banjo playing in the garden, Broken Hill, far west of outback New South Wales (detail)
c. 1910-20
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales' c. 1900-1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
c. 1900-1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales' c. 1900-1910 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Dr Tham?, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales (detail)
c. 1900-1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Horse and trap, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Horse and trap, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Largs Pier Hotel, North-western suburb of Adelaide, South Australia' c. 1910

 

Anonymous photographer
Largs Pier Hotel, North-western suburb of Adelaide, South Australia
c. 1910
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Largs Pier Hotel

Largs Pier Hotel is located on the corner of The Esplanade and Jetty Road in Largs Bay, South Australia.

The Largs Pier Hotel opened in 1882 on the same day as the Largs Bay Railway and Pier. Believed to be 23rd of December according to The Port Adelaide Historical Society. From 1882 till around 1892 the Largs Pier was the primary port of call for New Australians travelling from Europe. Many of these immigrants spent their first nights in Australia at the hotel. (Wikipedia)

 

Largs Pier Hotel, South Australia

 

Largs Pier Hotel, South Australia today

 

 

1930s Australia

Anonymous photographer. 'Alice Springs' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
Alice Springs
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Alice Springs' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Alice Springs (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Police camels' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
Police camels
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Police camels' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Police camels (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Note the Aboriginal police tracker second from left. This could be in the Northern Territory.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'At the Granites' c. 1930

 

Anonymous photographer
At the Granites
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

 

This photograph is possibly from around the Granites gold mine in the Tanami Desert of the Northern Territory of Australia. You can make out the word “gold” on the truck behind the men.

Gold was discovered in the Tanami Desert by Alan Davidson. He arrived in the area in 1898 prospecting until 1901. He took the name Tanami for the region from local Aboriginal people who visited his camp. “On inquiry [he] learned that the native name of the rockholes (from [which the party obtained water] was Tanami, and that they “never died,” he said. Davidson showed the gold specimens to these Aboriginal people, who recognised it and described “mobs of similar stone to the east, together with a large creek containing plenty of water and fish. This they said was “two days’ sleep to the south of east”. (Wikipedia)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'At the Granites' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
At the Granites (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Note the man crouching at left holding a Kodak box camera, and the folding camera (most probably a Kodak as well) at the feet of the man third from right.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'At the Granites' c. 1930 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
At the Granites (detail)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print

 

 

1950s Australia

Anonymous photographer. 'Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Roy Hill Homestead, Pilbara region of Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Roy Hill Homestead

Statement of significance

Roy Hill Station has strong heritage significance as it has aesthetic, historical, scientific, and social values. It represents more than a hundred years of life on a Pilbara station, and its buildings and structures, reflect an evolutionary pattern of development. Roy Hill Station was the home of Alexander Langdon (Alex) Spring who made an enormous contribution to local government in the region between 1940-70. He was a Councillor for 31 years, and was the first President of the East Pilbara Shire in 1972. He was made a Freeman of the Shire of East Pilbara in 1973. becoming the 13th Freeman in Western Australia.
Roy Hill continues to have significance as a large pastoral station, representing some of the other stations which owners did not want included in the Shire of East Pilbara Heritage Inventory.

 

History

Physical description

Roy Hill Homestead is situated 1km off the main road halfway between Newman and Nullagine. Roy Hill Station consists of a large number of buildings which demonstrate the dynamic process of running a pastoral station over a period of more than a century. There are a number of corrugated iron sheds built at different times for mechanical work and storage of station equipment. Close by is the aircraft directional beacon available for the nearby airstrip if a plane was lost. The original airstrip was approx. 6 miles from the homestead. Part of the very old cattle stockyards still stand next to a disused cattle killing hoist, reflecting a time when pastoralists regularly butchered cattle for their home consumption. The yards were the main trucking yards and general handling yards.

The large main house is one of a number of buildings that have been erected on the station since the turn of the century. It has cement block walls with a corrugated iron roof. Surrounding the large and once gracious home is a wide verandah. The house originally consisted of three bedrooms, a living room, guest room, dining room and school room. Nearby the house is a cluster of older buildings including a ‘Nissan hut’ shaped kitchen and dining room for workers and the old Post Office. Office and General Store.

The Post Office, Office and General Store has corrugated iron walls and a gabled tin roof. Inside the Post Office are the pigeon holes and other associated post office fittings. The service hatch for the Post Office is still visible from the outside. The General Store (to the rear of the Post Office) still has its shelves in place and much of the old equipment that has been collected there over the years gives a feeling of stepping back into another time. In the immediate vicinity of the homestead property are other remnants from the past.

Concrete pads found amongst the grass are the remains of Aboriginal stockmens quarters and the many rainwater tanks are reminders of the need to collect and store all water needed for consumption. A light aircraft parked near the airstrip is an important vehicle for transport and for mustering.
Today the house stands unoccupied and the owner and any employees live in transportable homes near the old house.

Text from the State Heritage Office, Government of Western Australia website

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Mundiwindi

Mundiwindi just off the Jigalong Mission Road in Western Australia is a locality about 1000km north-northeast of Perth. Mundiwindi is at an altitude of about 575m above sea level. The nearest ocean is the Indian Ocean about 410km north-northwest of Mundiwindi. The nearest more populous place is the town of Newman which is 71km away with a population of around 3,500.

Mundiwindi is a ghost town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The town is around 1,150 kilometres (710 mi) north east of Perth and 124 kilometres (77 mi) south east of Newman, along the Jigalong Mission road. The town was established in 1914 as a telegraph station. The station was closed in 1977. The telegraph station was a link on the Australian Overland Telegraph Line linking the settled regions of Australia to the submarine cable at Broome. A weather station operated at the site between 1915 and 1981. (Wikipedia)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Mundiwindi Station, Pilbara region of Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Cardawan Station, central Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Cardawan Station, central Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Stockman (Australia)

In Australia a stockman (plural stockmen) is a person who looks after the livestock on a large property known as a station, which is owned by a grazier or a grazing company. A stockman may also be employed at an abattoir, feedlot, on a livestock export ship, or with a stock and station agency. …

 

History

The role of the mounted stockmen came into being early in the 19th century, when in 1813 the Blue Mountains separating the coastal plain of the Sydney region from the interior of the continent was crossed. The town of Bathurst was founded shortly after, and potential farmers moved westward, and settled on the land, many of them as squatters. The rolling country, ideal for sheep and the large, often unfenced, properties necessitated the role of the shepherd to tend the flocks.

Early stockmen were specially selected, highly regarded men owing to the high value and importance of early livestock. All stockmen need to be interested in animals, able to handle them with confidence and patience, able to make accurate observations about them and enjoy working outdoors.

Australian Aborigines were good stockmen who played a large part in the successful running of many stations. With their intimate bonds to their tribal places, and local knowledge they also took considerable pride in their work. After the gold rushes white labour was expensive and difficult to retain. Aboriginal women also worked with cattle on the northern stations after this practice developed in northern Queensland during the 1880s. A Native administration Act later stopped the employment of women in the cattle camps. Aborigines and their families received the regular provision of food and clothing to retain their labour, but were paid only a small wage.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

For more information on the role and conditions of Aboriginal stockmen, please see the book Aborigines in the Northern Territory Cattle Industry by Dr Frank Stevens, Australian National University Press, 1974.

“Perhaps nowhere in Australia have working and living conditions for Aborigines been so bad as on Northern Territory cattle stations. Though the Aborigines’ skill in handling cattle is acknowledged by their white employers, rarely have they gained recognition in any material way. None were paid full wages, many were fortunate if they received any cash wages at all, almost all lived in appalling conditions, and many were subjected to physical violence.

These facts emerge clearly from Dr Stevens’s thorough research into the conditions obtaining on Territory pastoral properties in the 1960s. During surveys in 1965 followed up in 1967, Dr Stevens questioned employers and both black and white workers in the industry, eliciting some revealing replies. It was apparent that the Aboriginal workers were fully aware of their degraded position and the way in which they were exploited.

Where possible Dr Stevens visited the Aboriginal station ‘camps’, though he met with opposition from some station owners, reluctant to allow him free access. In almost all of them the living conditions were primitive, the best of accommodation being little more than a corrugated iron hut. Few camps had running water or cooking facilities.

In the growing awareness of the Aborigines’ plight in Australia, this book is an important testimony of the conditions in which many lived and worked, conditions that must no longer be allowed to exist.” (Book jacket)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Cardawan Station, central Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Cardawan Station, central Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia' c. 1950

 

Anonymous photographer
Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Austin, Western Australia

Austin is an abandoned town in the Murchison region of Western Australia. The town is located south of Cue on an island in Lake Austin and for this reason was also known as Lake Austin and The Island Lake Austin.

The lake and the town are both named after surveyor Robert Austin, who was the first European to explore and chart the area. Austin initially named the lake the Great Inland Marsh but the name was later changed to Lake Austin. The townsite was gazetted in 1895. When Austin travelled through the area he described it as very indifferent but also added the geological features indicate rich goldfields. (Wikipedia)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia' c. 1950 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer
Railway Hotel, Lake Austin township, Murchison region of Western Australia (detail)
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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21
Dec
17

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
Nd

 

 

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.

Marcus

.
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’oeil

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
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
1895
Albumen print

 

Unknown photographer. 'Getting Water' 1892

 

Unknown photographer
Getting Water
1892
Albumen prints

 

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

 

Unknown photographer
“At the well” Station Hands
1892
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)
1891

 

 

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
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]
Nd
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]
Nd

 

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

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal making fire]
Nd

 

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

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal with spear]
Nd

 

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]
Nd

 

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

 

Kerry & Co., (Sydney)
Aboriginal chief
c. 1900-1917
Collotype
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]
Nd

 

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

 

Anonymous photographer
Untitled [Aboriginal family group]
Nd

 

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
Nd
14 x 10.5 cm

 

 

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20
Sep
15

Exhibition: ‘Storm in a Teacup’ at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery, Mornington

Exhibition dates: 24th July – 27th September 2015

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007) 'Dark tea' 2015

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007)
Dark tea (installation photo)
2015
Royal icing, butter cream icing, fondant, food dye, found objects
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artists

 

 

This is the best thematic group exhibition I have seen in Melbourne and surrounds this year.

Every piece in the exhibition is visually stimulating and intelligently constructed, all works combining to make an engaging exhibition. Nothing is superfluous, every work having something interesting to say, whether it is about the ceremony of tea drinking, colonisation, global warming, Stolen Generations or social mores. Congratulations must go to the curators and artists for their efforts.

Particular favourites where the Hotham Street Ladies Dark Tea (2015, below) made of royal icing, butter cream icing, fondant, food dye, and found objects; the many sculptural objects which form the backbone of the exhibition, especially the work of Sharon West and Penny Byrne; and the wonderful vintage photographs that are displayed in the foyer of the gallery.

Accompanying this exhibition is another excellent exhibition, Ways to draw: A selection from the permanent collection by Betty Churcher, on till 27th September as well. If you want a day out from Melbourne with lunch in Mornington, some seriously good art and a drive along the coast, you could do no better than visit the gallery in the next week. Highly recommended.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007) 'Dark tea' 2015 (detail)

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007) 'Dark tea' 2015 (detail)

 

Hotham Street Ladies (est. Australia 2007)
Dark tea (details)
2015
Royal icing, butter cream icing, fondant, food dye, found objects
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artists

 

Charles Blackman (b. Australia 1928) 'Feet beneath the table' 1956

 

Charles Blackman (Australian, 1928-2018)
Feet beneath the table
1956
Tempera and oil on composition board
106.5 x 121.8cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through the NGV Foundation by Barbara Blackman, Honorary Life Benefactor, 2005

 

 

Charles Blackman first encountered Lewis Caroll’s book, Alice in Wonderland, through a talking book for the blind which his wife, Barbara was listening to. Her developing blindness resulted in telescopic vision, spatial disorientation and a shrinking visual field. She was also pregnant with their first child and her distorted body image also had parallels with Alice’s experiences. By painting Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party Blackman could express his wife’s feeling of bewilderment and disorientation.

 

E. Phillips Fox (b. Australia 1865; d. Victoria 1915) 'The arbour' 1910

 

E. Phillips Fox (b. Australia 1865; d. Victoria 1915)
The arbour
1910
Oil on canvas
190.5 x 230.7cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest 1916

 

 

Melbourne born E. Phillips Fox, described as ‘one of the greatest of Australia’s Impressionist painters and the most gifted of her colourists’1 went to Paris in 1887 to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts where he encountered the work of the French Impressionists. He remained in Paris for several years but made frequent trips back to Melbourne to visit his family. The Arbour was painted in Paris in Fox’s garden but is based upon observations of family life in his brother’s garden in Malvern. The depiction of an elegant family taking tea al fresco is a study of refined gentility. The Arbour was exhibited at both the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon exhibitions and was regarded by Fox as the finest thing he had done.2 At the time the painting was much admired for its ‘subtle lights ad shadow’3 and his exemplary ‘use of delicate colour and refined harmonies.’4

  1. Courier Mail, 12 May 1949
  2. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1913
  3. Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 1913
  4. Le Courrier Australien, Sydney, 15 April 1949

 

Clare Humphries (b. Australia 1973) 'Some things were out in the open' 2007

 

Clare Humphries (Australian, b. 1973)
Some things were out in the open
2007
Pigment print on Hahnemühle photo rag paper (ed. 3/5)
63.0 x 62.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Adam Hill (Blak Douglas) (b. Australia 1970) 'Not everyone’s cup of tea' 2009

 

Adam Hill (Blak Douglas) (Australian, b. 1970)
Not everyone’s cup of tea
2009
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
150.0 x 260.0cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2009

 

Kendal Murray (b. Australia 1958) 'Exceed speed, mislead, concede' 2011

 

Kendal Murray (Australian, b. 1958)
Exceed speed, mislead, concede
2011
Mixed media assemblage
18.0 x 24.0 x 14.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Arthouse Gallery, Sydney

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) 'Tea for two in Tuvalu' 2011

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
Tea for two in Tuvalu
2011
Vintage porcelain figurine, vintage, Action man accessories, vintage coral, glass fish, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
15.0 x 19.0cm
Private Collection

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) 'Tea for two in Tuvalu' 2011

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
Tea for two in Tuvalu (installation photo)
2011
Vintage porcelain figurine, vintage, Action man accessories, vintage coral, glass fish, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
15.0 x 19.0cm
Private Collection

 

 

This piece was inspired by an underwater cabinet meeting held in 2009 by Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed in a campaign to raise awareness for activity on climate change. The thirty minute meeting was held six metres below sea level and was attended by eleven cabinet members calling upon all countries to cut their emissions to halt further temperature rises.

Polynesian island nation of Tuvalu, located in the Pacific Ocean midway between Hawaii and Australia, experienced a severe drought in 2011. A sate of emergency was declared and rationing of fresh-water took place which restricted households on some of the islands to two buckets of fresh water per day. Tuvalu is also especially susceptible to changes in sea level and it is estimated that a sea level rise of 20 to 40 centimetres in the next 100 years could make Tuvalu uninhabitable.

 

Kate Bergin (b. Australia 1968) 'The hunt for a room of one’s own' 2012

 

Kate Bergin (Australian, b. 1968)
The hunt for a room of one’s own
2012
Oil on canvas on board
75.0 x 101.0 cm
Private Collection

 

 

Kate Bergin draws upon Dutch and Flemish seventeenth century tradition of still life painting to comment on our attitudes to animals. Bergin stages the scene on a crumpled white tablecloth upon which a large fox, based on a taxidermy fox she bought on eBay, regally sits centre stage. Meticulously rendered native birds, including a honeyeater, finch and triller, are based on photographs of specimens from the Melbourne Museum Collection. They flit about unperturbed by the introduced predator. Teaspoons, representing the impulse for collecting, entangle the fox and bird. Together with a teapot and cup, precariously placed, they contribute to the overarching sense of impending chaos.

Both afternoon tea and the fox represent English upper class social mores and were introduced into the colonies following British settlement. The fox arrived in 1855, brought in for recreational hunting, and has been a major cause of native bird extinctions. Fox numbers are increasing in some areas further threatening the precarious balance between wild life and introduced species.

 

Sharon West (b. Australia 1963) 'Two Koori Tribesmen receive a gift of afternoon tea from local colonists' 2014

 

Sharon West (Australian, b. 1963)
Two Koori Tribesmen receive a gift of afternoon tea from local colonists (installation photo)
2014
Mixed media assemblage
15.0 x 46.0 x 30.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Heather Shimmen (b. Australia 1957) 'Tip me up' 2005

 

Heather Shimmen (Australian, b. 1957)
Tip me up (installation photo)
2005
Linocut on paper and organza (ed. 7/30)
56.0 x 76.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Australian Galleries, Melbourne and Sydney

 

Trent Jansen (b. Australia 1981) 'Briggs family tea service' 2011

 

Trent Jansen (Australian, b. 1981)
Briggs family tea service (installation photo)
2011
Slip cast porcelain, bull kelp, wallaby pelt, copper and brass
George (teapot) 22.5 x 20.5 x 13.0cm; Woretermoeteyenner (sugar bowl) 16.0 x 13.5 x 9.0cm; Dolly (milk jug) 12.5 x 12.5 x 8.5cm; John (teacup) 7.0 x 8.5 x 8.0cm; Eliza (teacup) 7.5 x 10.5 x 8.0cm; Mary (teacup) 10.0 x 9.0 x 6.5cm
Courtesy of Broached Commissions, Melbourne

 

 

The Briggs family tea service represents the marriage of George Briggs, a free settler, to Woretermoeteyenner of the Pairrebeenne people in Van Diemen’s Land and the four children they had together. Briggs arrived from Bedfordshire in 1791 and learned to speak the language of the local Pairrebeenne people, trading tea, flour and sugar fro kangaroo, wallaby and seal skins. It is understood that he became good friends with the leader of the Pairrebeenne people, Mannalargenna, and by 1810 he partnered his daughter Woretermoeteyenner. Their marriage meant she had to adapt to a way of life that merged her traditional cultural values with the ways of British settlers. The teapot and sugar bowl represent the parents while their first daughter, Doll Mountgarret Briggs is symbolised in the milk jug and the three cups each signify their other children John, Eliza and Mary.

The tea service is a hybrid design bringing together materials common to both cultures. To realise the set Jansen worked with Rod Bamford on the ceramic elements, Oliver Smith for the brass and copper and Vicki West, who uses the traditional methods of her Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestors, worked with the bull kelp components.

 

eX de Medici (b. Australia 1959) 'Blue (Bower-Bauer)' 1998–2000

 

eX de Medici (Australian, b. 1959)
Blue (Bower-Bauer) (installation photo)
1998-2000
Watercolour over black pencil on paper
114.0 x 152.8 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004

 

eX de Medici (b. Australia 1959) 'Blue (Bower-Bauer)' 1998-2000 (detail)

 

eX de Medici (Australian, b. 1959)
Blue (Bower-Bauer) (detail)
1998-2000
Watercolour over black pencil on paper
114.0 x 152.8cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 2004

 

 

A turning point in eX de Medici’s career came in 1998 when she saw an exhibition of watercolours by Ferdinand Bauer comprising 2,000 rarely seen images of native flora and fauna made when Bauer was official artist on Matthew Flinder’s historic circumnavigation of Australia in 1801-03. Previously working with tattoo imagery, Medici found the intricate works so compelling she decided to change course and ‘retrograde’ herself and explore watercolour as a medium.1

Referencing Australia’s Bower bird that adorns its nest with anything blue, Medici entangles the history of vanitas painting with commentary about the desire to seek permanence and affirmation in the accumulation of things. The broken willow pattern platter, upturned jugs and cups, amassed with so many other decorative and functional objects, are juxtaposed with skulls, fruit and flowers – symbols of mortality. A reaction to what she considered John Howard’s regressive politics at the time, the work ‘is a kind of a backhanded discussion about colonising our minds with retroactive ideas’.2

  1. Ted Gott. ‘eX deMedici an epic journey on a Lilliputian scale’ Art and Australia Vol. 40, No. 1, Spring 2002, p. 105
  2. eX deMedici in Paul Flynn. Artist Profile #5, March 2008, pp. 28-35.

 

 

Storm in a Teacup reflects upon tea drinking in Australia. Introduced by the British colonials, the afternoon tea party was an attempt to ‘civilise’ the land. Tea drinking became so popular in the colonies that by 1888 the amount of tea consumed per capita exceeded the amount consumed in England. Soon after, billy tea was to become an enduring symbol of the pioneering spirit, immortalised by Henry Lawson’s stories published under the title While the billy boils.

Beginning with elegant paintings of the afternoon tea table from E. Phillips Fox and Arthur Streeton, the exhibition goes on to explore the darker side of tea drinking and the social and environmental impacts of the humble cup of tea. Michael Cook’s Object (table), 2015, provides an alternative history to the narrative of colonialism while Sharon West and Adam Hill both use humour to subvert colonial understandings of the afternoon tea party as an occasion of refined gentility.

The humble cuppa has been around for thousands of years, but this exhibition explores how a popular beverage can impact on us culturally, socially, environmentally and politically. There is more to debate than just the proper way to make a cup of tea. Storm in a teacup explores far-reaching issues brewing from tea, including the imposition of one culture upon another – especially on the colonial frontier; the production of ceramics and the environmental impacts of porcelain and its production; gender stereotypes and socialisation through tea parties. The exhibition also reflects upon tea drinking ceremonies in Asia within a western Orientalist paradigm and tea drinking as an occasion for familial cohesiveness and disconnect.”

Text from the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Mark James Daniel (1867-1949) 'Verandah, "Harefield" - afternoon tea' Feb 1900

 

Mark James Daniel (Australian, 1867-1949)
Verandah, “Harefield” – afternoon tea
Feb 1900
Glass negative
8.5 x 11.0cm (quarter plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

Michael J Drew (1873-1943) 'Group taking tea in a garden' between 1890 and 1900

 

Michael J Drew (Australian, 1873-1943)
Group taking tea in a garden
between 1890 and 1900
Glass negative
12.2 x 16.5cm (half plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

Rex Hazlewood (1886-1968) '[Men drinking billy tea]' 1911 - 1927

 

Rex Hazlewood (Australian, 1886-1968)
[Men drinking billy tea]
1911-1927
Silver gelatin print
Collection of the State Library of New South Wales

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Afternoon tea at "Vivaleigh"' 1917

 

Anonymous photographer
Afternoon tea at “Vivaleigh”
1917
Gelatin silver print
12 x 16cm
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

James Fox Barnard (1874-1945) 'Lawn, Arylie, Hobart' c. 1900

 

James Fox Barnard (Australian, 1874-1945)
Lawn, Arylie, Hobart
c. 1900
Glass negative
8.5 x 11.0cm (quarter plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

James Fox Barnard (1874-1945) '[Tea on the verandah]' c. 1900

 

James Fox Barnard (Australian, 1874-1945)
[Tea on the verandah]
c. 1900
Glass negative
8.5 x 11.0cm (quarter plate)
Collection of the State Library of Victoria

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Storm in a Teacup' at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition Storm in a Teacup at the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

 

Tea is the medium of many a complex and commonplace rituals. Adopted in a variety of ceremonies and customs across the globe, its unique and symbolic place in our lives is subtle and powerful. Whether a quick cuppa around the kitchen table or a lavish display of refined gentility; from billy tea to Asian tea-drinking ceremonies, tea has played an important role in international trade but more curiously in facilitating social cohesiveness.

Comprising approximately 50 works including painting, photography, sculpture and installation Storm in a Teacup features artists such as Chares Blackman, John Perceval, Emma Minnie Boyd, E. Phillips Fox and contemporary artists Stephen Bowers, Danie Mellor, Penny Byrne, Rosalie Gasgoigne, Matthew Sleeth, eX de Medici, Anne Zahalka, Polixeni Papapetrou and a mad tea party installation by Hotham Street Ladies.

Tea is said to have first been invented in China around 2700 BC, with the earliest records of tea consumption dating to 1000BC. Initially consumed as a medicinal drink, it became widely popular as a common beverage and traded across Asia and Europe during the 16th century. It was King Charles II’s wife Catherine of Portugal who is said to have brought the tea habit to Great Britain. Indeed, the afternoon tea party first became fashionable in the seventeenth century following Queen Catherine de Braganza’s fondness for serving the beverage at Whitehall in London. It wasn’t until the 18th century that it became widely consumed with tea smuggling bringing the tipple to the masses and later influenced the Boston Tea Party.

Tea drinking became a demonstration of social aspirations and grew in popularity giving rise to a subtle orchestration of manners, dress and serving paraphernalia which created new forms of commodity consumption. In the colonies of New South Wales and Victoria afternoon tea parties were a lavish display of settler understandings of refined gentility that were an attempt to signal allegiance to the values of the home country and ground the displaced community in their originating culture. In this respect the afternoon tea party expressed collective understandings of British identity and was a means of domesticating and civilising the alien terrain of the colonies.

Press release from the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery

 

Clare Humphries (b. Australia 1973) 'Family confection II' 2015

Clare Humphries (b. Australia 1973) 'Family confection II' 2015

 

Clare Humphries (Australian, b. 1973)
Family confection II (installation photos)
2015
Sugar cubes stained with coffee and tea
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist

 

Giuseppe Romeo (b. Australia 1958) Subjective landscape, 'Of consequence rather than reason' 2015

DSC1644-WEB

 

Giuseppe Romeo (Australian, b. 1958)
Subjective landscape, ‘Of consequence rather than reason’ (installation photos)
2015
Found discarded objects, bitumen, paint
80.0 x 100.0 x 60.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Guiseppe Rome asks the simple question: ‘What are you going to do with it all?’

Romeo recalls the tea sets his mother and aunts possessed and the ‘good set’ kept for special occasions that were rarely used. In this work a silver platter is the support for a silver cake stand upon which a teapot, creamer, sugar bowl and various serving implements jostle with items required to clean up the mess. The bat, ball and stumps are a reference to playing cricket which ‘became an excuse for a big afternoon tea party in England’. A ribbon of wire holds it all together ‘like a dream from Alice in Wonderland when nothing is as it seems’, while a tinkling melody from a music box is a lullaby that sends us in to a contented sleep.

Romeo coats the sculpture in bitumen then paints it entirely in white. The effect is reminiscent of excavated items from an ancient ruin, as if w are peering upon the remains from a modern day Pompeii – artefacts that have been covered in lava and buried. This work alludes to the ways in which we deceive ourselves and ‘attempt to keep it all together through consumption but ultimately we can’t’.

 

Samantha Everton (b. Australia 1971) 'Camellia' 2009

 

Samantha Everton (Australian, b. 1971)
Camellia
2009
From the series Vintage dolls 2009
Pigment print on rag paper (ed. AP2)
106.0 x 114.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and Anthea Polson Art, Queensland

 

Robyn Phelan (b. Australia 1965) 'Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession' 2010-15

 

Robyn Phelan (Australian, b. 1965)
Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession (installation photo)
2010-15
Porcelain, paper, clay, cobalt oxide, timber, pigment, Jingdezhen tissue transfer
240.0 x 122.0 x 42.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Robyn Phelan (b. Australia 1965) 'Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession' 2010-15 (detail)

 

Robyn Phelan (Australian, b. 1965)
Porcelain wall – ode to an obsession (detail)
2010-15
Porcelain, paper, clay, cobalt oxide, timber, pigment, Jingdezhen tissue transfer
240.0 x 122.0 x 42.0cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Robyn Phelan undertook a residency at the Pottery Workshop and Experimental Sculptural Factory of Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province in China in 2008. Jingdezhen is known as the porcelain capital because it has been the centre of China’s ceramic production, beginning in the fourteenth century Yuan Dynasty, where fine porcelain was first exported all over the world.

Deposits of kaolinite, a clay found at Mt Kaolin nearby which can sustain very high firing temperatures produced a superior white porcelain of increased strength and translucency. Items made from kaolinite were fired with cobalt landscape designs and were highly sought after by European collectors. Over the centuries, because of excessive mining, the mountain’s deposits have become depleted. Phelan’s work is a lament to the desecration of the mountain and a reminder of the potential destructiveness of consumer desire.

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) '‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’' 2010

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’ (installation photo)
2010
Vintage porcelain figurine, found toys, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
80.0 x 33.0cm
Williams Sinclair Collection

 

Penny Byrne (b. Australia 1965) '‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’' 2010 (detail)

 

Penny Byrne (Australian, b. 1965)
‘Let’s forget about global warming’ said Alice ‘and have a cup of tea instead!’ (detail)
2010
Vintage porcelain figurine, found toys, epoxy resin, epoxy putty, retouching medium, powder pigments
80.0 x 33.0cm
Williams Sinclair Collection

 

 

Penny Byrne’s reworked porcelain conversation piece was motivated by Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s cry to ‘drill, baby, drill’ during her campaign in 2008. A call for increase off-shore drilling of petroleum, including sites such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Palin claimed ‘that’s what we hear all across the country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into’.1

In Byrne’s piece the patriotic figures gorge themselves, blithely overindulging without care to the wastage. The new Disney production of Alice in Wonderland directed by Tim Burton had just been released and this led Byrne to reflect upon the Mad Hatter’s tea party in which tea was drunk all day because time stood still and was stuck at tea-time.

  1. Transcript: The Vice-Presidential Debate, 2 October 2008. Reprinted in the New York Times, 23 May 2012.

 

Sharon West (b. Australia 1963) 'Joseph Banks’ tea party for a Botany Bay tribesman is ruined by flies and spiders' 2014

 

Sharon West (Australian, b. 1963)
Joseph Banks’ tea party for a Botany Bay tribesman is ruined by flies and spiders
2014
Digital print on paper (ed. 2/5)
66.0 x 57.0cm (sheet)
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Sharon West’s recreation of an afternoon tea party is set in the early days of first contact. Joseph Banks was the botanist who sailed with Captain Cook on the Endeavour on the first voyage of discovery which mapped the east coast of Australia between 1768 and 1771. While ashore he made an extensive collection of native flora and fauna which was sent back to natural history museums in England. Banks was also instrumental in the British government’s decision to colonise the New South Wales settlement.

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999) 'The tea party' 1980

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999)
The tea party (installation photo)
1980
Painted wood, celluloid, plastic, enamelled metal, feathers
83.0 x 35.0 x 20.0cm
Private collection

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999) 'The tea party' 1980 (detail)

 

Rosalie Gascoigne (b. New Zealand 1917; arr. Australia 1943; d. Canberra 1999)
The tea party (detail)
1980
Painted wood, celluloid, plastic, enamelled metal, feathers
83.0 x 35.0 x 20.0cm
Private collection

 

 

Rosalie Gascoigne found the kewpie dolls amongst a large number of discarded things from an abandoned sideshow at the Bungendore dump in the summer of 1976. ‘I thought “Oh, those dollies, they’re having a … very joyful … picnic. They’re … in the paddock, they’ve got all these old things … they’ve sat down on the teapots and waved their wings around.”

For Gascoigne beauty existed in the most humble of objects and the wear and tear from use only added to the appeal. The enamel teapots were also found at various dumps and were a particular focus of her collecting.

‘I had a thing about enamelware because I see it as being elegant. People see the holes in it. I was collecting brown and white at the same time. To me it had a sort of elegance that a Dalmatian dog has, spotty, very elegant’.1

  1. Rosalie Gascoigne, excerpts from her correspondence, email communication with Martin Gascoigne, 13 March 2015

 

Julie Dowling (b. Australia 1969) Badimaya people, Western Australia 'White with one' 2003

 

Julie Dowling (Australian, b. 1969)
Badimaya people, Western Australia
White with one
2003
Synthetic polymer paint and red ochre on canvas
121.0 x 100.0 cm
Collection of Jane Kleimeyer and Anthony Stuart

 

 

Julie Dowling’s painting is a poignant reminder of the Stolen Generations and the plight of many young girls, forcibly removed from their families, who were brought up in government institutions and trained to be domestic servant to white families. Girls were targeted because women were considered the ‘uplifters’ or ‘civilisers’ of their communities and as future mothers their education into the values of white society was deemed essential to enable successful assimilation. Girls in service were supposed to receive a wage but often this was retained by their employer and not passed on. Dowling points out it is also a history of Stolen wages.

 

Michael Cook (b. Australia 1968) Bidjara people, south-west Queensland 'Object (table)' 2015

 

Michael Cook (Australian, b. 1968)
Bidjara people, south-west Queensland
Object (table)
2015
Inkjet print on Hahnemühle cotton rag (ed. 2/4 + 2AP)
140.0 x 99.0cm
Courtesy of the artist and THIS IS NO FANTASY + dianne tanzer gallery, Melbourne

 

 

Michael Cook’s photographic tableau ‘turns the table’ on racism. By depicting the body of a white woman as a functional object in service to others, Cook considers the dehumanisation and objectification of one race of people by another in the history of slavery.

The double portrait on the back wall is by Johann Zoffany from 1778, and features Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) who was born into slavery in the West Indies. The daughter of an African mother, her father was an English naval officer who left her to the care of his uncle, Lord William Murray, where she was raised as an equal with Murray’s niece. Murray was instrumental in outlawing slavery in the United Kingdom in 1772. In the painting Zoffany depicts the two women standing together, the niece affectionately reaching out to Belle. Hence Cook’s afternoon tea is also a reminder that prejudice and racial inequality can be surmounted.

 

Yenny Huber (b. Austria 1980; arr. Australia 2000) 'Room No. 14' 2006

 

Yenny Huber (b. Austria 1980; arr. Australia 2000)
Room No. 14
2006
Digital print on aluminium panel (ed. 1/6)
27.2 x 27.2cm
Warrnambool Art Gallery, Victoria

 

 

Underpinned by the belief that any one person is comprised of diverse, fragmentary and often illusory selves, Yenny Huber explores the various ego states that reside within. This photograph is a self portrait taken in a hotel room, but it is also an impersonation of an identity available to women. Tea-drinking was once described as ‘an infallible sign of an old maid’1 and in this work Huber offers us an image of a good Catholic girl, knees together, elbows in, sitting demurely on the couch sipping tea. It is an image of femininity constrained by the dictates of religion and outdated socially sanctioned ideals of respectable female behaviour.

  1. The Horsham Times, Victoria, 26 April 1898

 

Anne Zahalka (b. Australia 1957) 'Saturday 5.18 pm 1995' 1995 (printed 1997)

 

Anne Zahalka (Australian, b. 1957)
Saturday 5.18 pm 1995
1995 (printed 1997)
Type C photograph (ed AP)
125.0 x 162.0cm
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney Gift of the artist, 2011
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program

 

 

Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery
Civic Reserve, Dunns Road, Mornington

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery website

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24
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘The view from here: The photographic world of Alfred Elliott 1890-1940’ at the Museum of Brisbane

Exhibition dates: 13 February – 30 August 2015

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Brisbane Botanic Gardens, near the Edward Street entrance' 1895

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Brisbane Botanic Gardens, near the Edward Street entrance
1895
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

 

This is more like it… what a find!

There are some fascinating punctum (which denote the wounding, personally touching detail which establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within the image), contained among this recently discovered treasure trove of photographs by Alfred Elliott.

At first, what looks like a real dog is actually a toy sitting in front of Alfred Goldsbrough Elliott, Stanley Terrace, Taringa (1908). And then you notice the hard-nosed stare of the little girl in Dorothy Elliott (1911). She is not a happy camper. Then the scruffy, bare-footed urchin in ‘Welcome to Brisbane’ arch, Queen Street (1895). Or the unhappy woman staring directly into the camera in Grand Arch, Queen Street, visit of the Duke of York (1901), as though her thoughts are being transmitted to us from beyond the grave. And finally, to the two young, blurred children running in front of a white picket fence in Windmill, Wickham Terrace (1895), the smaller of the children noticing the photographer and camera and looking towards both. Just a joy!

And don’t forget, all of these early photographs were taken with a large plate camera (the photographs after 1921 were taken with a film camera and have a totally different feel to them). For an artist to obtain the street photographs and potraits out in the field with this type of camera is superb. Just look at the image Members of the QLD League of Wheelmen, Wellington Point (1897). You can tell the personality of every individual in this image through the clarity, not just of the image but of the thought of the photographer, before he exposed his plate. It is so Australian in its iconography, it could come from nowhere else in the world. This photograph deserves to be up there with one of the seminal images of Australian photography.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thanks to the Museum of Brisbane for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

 

The view from here: The photographic world of Alfred Elliott 1890-1940

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Brisbane, from the Windmill' 1895

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Brisbane, from the Windmill
1895
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Aborigines fishing in the Maroochy River' 1890

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Aborigines fishing in the Maroochy River
1890
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Central Railway Station, from Edward Street' 1922

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Central Railway Station, from Edward Street
1922
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. ''Citizens' Welcome' arch, Queen Street' 1927

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
‘Citizens’ Welcome’ arch, Queen Street
1927
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. ''Citizens' Welcome' arch, Queen Street' 1927 (detail)

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
‘Citizens’ Welcome’ arch, Queen Street (detail)
1927
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

 

Museum of Brisbane’s latest exhibition offers an amazing visual portrait of a lost city – Brisbane at the turn of the 20th century – through a rare collection of photographs, all shot by a single resident and left forgotten under an inner-city house for decades. The view from here: The photographic world of Alfred Elliott 1890-1940 showcases the life’s work of the avid Brisbane-based photographer, offering a fascinating chronicle of the places he visited, major events he witnessed and intimate glimpses into his family life.

The historic collection of glass-plate and film negatives remained stored in cigar boxes under a house in Red Hill until they were uncovered in 1983 and acquired by Museum of Brisbane. For the past 30 years ‘The Elliott Collection’ was thought to comprise 285 glass plate negatives, until a neglected cigar box with more than 400 film negatives was uncovered at the Museum’s storage facility last year. This significant discovery has allowed the Museum to further piece together fragments of the passionate amateur photographer’s past. The collection provides a window into both his life and the life of a quickly changing city.

Elliott’s work also captures significant moments in Brisbane’s history, including the Duke and Duchess of York’s visit in 1901 and the farewell of the troops aboard SS Cornwall from Pinkenba in 1899. Museum of Brisbane Director Peter Denham said the collection was an exceptional record of one man’s perspective of Brisbane at a very exciting time.

“These unseen photographs offer a unique view of Brisbane at a significant turning point – the city’s population was booming, grand civic structures were erected and huge social change was occurring,” Mr Denham said. “The interactive elements of The view from here offer visitors the chance to get up close with buildings from our past, as well as investigate the photographic technology from the turn of last century.”

“With the discovery of hundreds of new photos, we have learned a lot about Elliott and his family and were even able to locate his much-loved home in Taringa. It is part of our mission as the city’s museum to uncover new stories and we are thrilled to share these findings with visitors. The exhibition wonderfully captures how much our city has changed and I think it will encourage people to reflect on their own perceptions of Brisbane.” The view from here will run until 30 August 2015.

Press release from the Museum of Brisbane website

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Dorothy Elliott, Amy Lock, Mrs Lock and Elizabeth Ellen Elliott' Nd

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Dorothy Elliott, Amy Lock, Mrs Lock and Elizabeth Ellen Elliott
Nd
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Elizabeth Ellen Elliott w the Dillon sisters Mary, Clare, Margo' Nd

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Elizabeth Ellen Elliott w the Dillon sisters Mary, Clare, Margo
Nd
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Government House, George Street' 1908

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Government House, George Street
1908
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott, 'Maroochy' 1890

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Maroochy
1890
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott, 'Maroochy' 1890 (detail)

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Maroochy (detail)
1890
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Members of the QLD League of Wheelmen, Wellington Point' 1897

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Members of the QLD League of Wheelmen, Wellington Point
1897
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

 

The first shipment of tricycles arrived in Brisbane in 1870 and the first race is reported to have been between a cyclist and a Cobb and Co coach from Brisbane to Sandgate. No official timing was recorded.

The initial Brisbane Bicycle Club meeting was held in 1881 at the Belle Vue Hotel. High wheel bicycles including the Penny Farthing were the only bikes available and novelty Penny Farthing races were held in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens where more riders fell off than stayed on. By 1886 Brisbane had 200 bicycles and 50 of these were used for racing…

The first Queensland championship was held at the Breakfast Creek Sports Ground in 1891 and was won by Lou Isles. Isles also rode long distance, riding from Brisbane to Sydney in 1891 a 700 mile trek which he completed in 7 days. Imported bicycles cost £30 although local bicycles could be bought for two pound ten. Successful Queensland riders of the day included Ben Goodsen, Billy Dowd and Percy Davies.

In 1895 a record of 1 hour 2 minutes and 10 seconds was set by George Stombaco for a 34 kilometre race over rough dirt roads from Brisbane and Cleveland. That same year, The League of Queensland Wheelmen held a Christmas Carnival with over 8000 attendees. Brisbane wasn’t the only town with a club as Maryborough, Townsville, Ipswich and Rockhampton also had successful clubs.

Karen Hind. “Cycling in Queensland.” 18 July 2011 [Online] Cited 19/08/2015.

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Treasury Building, William Street' 1895

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Treasury Building, William Street
1895
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Victoria Bridge, decorated for the Duke of York' 1901

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Victoria Bridge, decorated for the Duke of York
1901
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Victoria Bridge, decorated for the Duke of York' 1901 (detail)

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Victoria Bridge, decorated for the Duke of York (detail)
1901
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

 

The images chronicle a broad range of Elliott’s life – from private moments with friends on family trips and picnics at the Glasshouse Mountains to key moments in Brisbane’s history such as the construction of Central Railway Station in 1899 and the visit from the Duke and Duchess of York in 1901. Images were captured in locations including Mt Coot-tha, the city’s Botanic Gardens, Tweeds Heads just south of the border and the Moreton Bay Region – all undertaken by train, bus, boat, car and possibly even by horse and bicycle.

Curator Phil Manning, who discovered the last cigar box, said it was evident from the body of work that Elliott was proud of his city.

“He documented the city by walking the streets and going on travels with his family,” Mr Manning said. “He had a strong connection to the British Empire, that was probably the area he was most drawn to documenting … royal visits and the Queensland troops going off to the Boer War. But he’s also photographed Brisbane’s new buildings and structures such as the bridges that went up following the 1893 flood.”

Elliot’s first photographs were dated 1890 and captured on dry-plate glass negatives, including both single image and stereograph negatives. They were a mixture of amateur and professionally produced plates. Elliot used glass plates until 1921 when it appeared he changed to a camera with film.

Very little was known about Alfred Henrie Elliott. He was born in Paignton in England in 1870 and was the youngest of seven children. His family came to Queensland when he was seven years old, with his father taking up post as principal of Humpybong Primary School in Redcliffe, north of Brisbane. Elliott was known to have worked in Brisbane as a civil servant in a variety of roles. His working life also included jobs as a law clerk, professional shorthand writer and a bank clerk.

Patrick Williams and Maria Hatzakis. “Uncovered glass plates and film negatives capturing 50 years of Brisbane’s history go on display,” on the ABC News website, 10 Feb 2015 [Online] Cited on 19/08/2015.

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Eight hour day procession on Queen Street in Brisbane city' 1893

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Eight hour day procession on Queen Street in Brisbane city
1893
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Alfred Goldsbrough Elliott, Stanley Terrace, Taringa' 1908

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Alfred Goldsbrough Elliott, Stanley Terrace, Taringa
1908
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Dorothy Elliott' 1911

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Dorothy Elliott
1911
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Dorothy Elliott' 1911 (detail)

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Dorothy Elliott (detail)
1911
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Grand Arch, Queen Street, visit of the Duke of York' 1901

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Grand Arch, Queen Street, visit of the Duke of York
1901
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Grand Arch, Queen Street, visit of the Duke of York' 1901 (detail)

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Grand Arch, Queen Street, visit of the Duke of York (detail)
1901
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Picnic party on Brisbane River at Seventeen Mile Rocks' 1898

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Picnic party on Brisbane River at Seventeen Mile Rocks
1898
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Picnic party on Brisbane River at Seventeen Mile Rocks' 1898 (detail)

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Picnic party on Brisbane River at Seventeen Mile Rocks (detail)
1898
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Queen Street, Brisbane' 1899

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Queen Street, Brisbane
1899
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Treasury Building, Queen and William Street' 1901

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Treasury Building, Queen and William Street
1901
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. ''Welcome to Brisbane' arch, Queen Street' 1920

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
‘Welcome to Brisbane’ arch, Queen Street
1920
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. ''Welcome to Brisbane' arch, Queen Street' 1920 (detail)

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
‘Welcome to Brisbane’ arch, Queen Street (detail)
1920
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Windmill, Wickham Terrace' 1895

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Windmill, Wickham Terrace
1895
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Windmill, Wickham Terrace' 1895 (detail)

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Windmill, Wickham Terrace (detail)
1895
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Alfred Henry Elliott (1870 - 1954)' 1899

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Alfred Henry Elliott (1870 – 1954)
1899
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

Alfred Elliott. 'Elizabeth Ellen Elliott and Alfred Elliott' 1899

 

Alfred Elliott (Australian, 1870-1954)
Elizabeth Ellen Elliott and Alfred Elliott
1899
City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane

 

 

Museum of Brisbane

Museum of Brisbane is located on Level 3, Brisbane City Hall (Adelaide and Ann Street, Brisbane QLD)

Opening hours:
Open 7 days a week, 10am – 5pm

Museum of Brisbane website

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26
Jul
15

Photographs and text: ‘Quandong, New South Wales, Australia’ 1887

July 2015

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Shearing, Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

 

A fascinating set of albumen prints mounted on cabinet cards of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia in 1887. These images are probably among the first ever taken of the area, most likely by a travelling photographer. The reverse of the cards bearing the monogram C.A. or A.C. Each image measures 10 x 8cm (c. 4 x 3 inches), on slightly larger card (12 x 9.2cm / 4.8 x 3.6 inches).

It is instructive to look at the structure of the images to see how this unnamed photographer visualised his subject matter. Firstly, the three photographs of the house. Taken from the top of a barn (imagine lugging a large camera up there!), one image offers a three-quarter profile of the homestead, in the background wildness, with two white picket gates providing entry through a guardian hedge that protects the habitation. Next the photographer swings the camera around 180 degrees, photographing the homestead not from front on but again on an angle for dramatic effect, framing the foreground with a fence made of chopped down trees which encloses a sparse, newly planted garden. In one dark exposure, two men stand in formal pose stand with the grandmother sitting wrapped in a shawl beside one of the men. In the other lighter exposure (the photographer obviously had trouble here), we again have a formal placement of people, this time with the grandmother (without shawl) and grandfather sitting opposite each other, probably with their grandsons with dogs in front of them. Anyone who has lived in rural Australia would understand the significance of the verandah as a gathering place and congregational space to sit, and for youngsters, to play with their dogs.

Secondly, we observe the two side-on photographs of the horse and carts. Both show a distinctly formal placement of the objects within the picture plane with a limited spatial depth to the photographs, with no vanishing point. But there are distinctive differences between the two photographs. The horse and trap evidence the status of the people involved, the two horses and large carriage being held steady by a third person and far left of picture. The second photograph is much more informal… the horse and young foal, the man in relaxed pose, hand on knee and then, in the foreground – as though to emphasise the working nature of this cart – a pile of logs and trees fill our vision, a stark contrast to the dark trees in the background. There is nothing in the foreground of the first photograph, forcing the eye to rest on the formal structure of man/horse/men/trap.

Next we observe two photographs of a flock of sheep and men. In the first image the photographer has framed the man and dog at left with horse behind the flock of sheep, while at right a group of three men stand close together before a wooden fence… holding up the right hand side of the image. Wilderness can be seen beyond. Notice how there is a flat empty area at the front of the image which leads the eye to the right and up to the men, thence to the tall trees beyond. Lovely spaces in this image, with the grouping of the sheep and men, the horizontal line of the fence dividing the tonality of the image – dark at the bottom, light at the top. In the second image the photographer has not moved the camera but he has moved the men at right. The framing of the man at left and the horse and flock of sheep are still the same, but now he has removed one man and moved the other two men to be slightly behind the spatial plane of the man with the dog. The sun has come out as we can see the shadow of the two men on the ground, and the exposure must have been short, for we can see the paw of the dog caught in mid-air. It is interesting to note that the photographer does not mind the two trees coming out of the tops of the men’s heads at right, instead of placing them in the negative space between the trees. Further evidence of the nature of the environment in which this homestead was evolving can be found in the photograph At Quandong, an almost modernist rendition of the wilderness, in which the image is divided into a series of horizontal lines – foreground fence, mid-ground fence, horizon line with the wild beyond. The photographer thought this view important enough to warrant a photograph, even though there is nothing obviously substantial contained in the image. It does, however, graphically illustrate the isolation of the homestead within the environment.

Lastly we have the images of Shearing in Woolshed and Shearing, Quandong. The light is absolutely beautiful in both of these images, entering as it does through the door at bottom left of the images and, as an opposite, through the open doors at the top left of the image. Shearing, Quandong is the more successful of the two images through its pure simplicity. Note the strong diagonal from top left to bottom right, which in Shearing in Woolshed is disturbed by the presence of the two overseers. Also note how in the image that was likely taken first, Shearing in Woolshed, the camera is placed higher up. We can tell this by the visibility of the poles behind the overseer and the fact that we can’t see the base of the wooden pole at right. In this image the lad at right has his hat on. In Shearing, Quandong the distance between the door, poles and the top of the image at back is much shorter and we can now see the base of the wooden pole at right. The lad has taken off his hat and put in on the floor there.

How young both of these lads are, with their crew cut hair, using huge manual shears. What backbreaking work it must have been in the heat and humidity… and the one thing that you cannot get an idea of, is the smell of these woolsheds. If you have ever been in one of these woolsheds you know what a pungent aroma these places have.

These photographs were taken a year before the iconic Australian painting by Tom Roberts Shearing the Rams (1888-1890), an archetypal vision of Australian pastoral life, and through them we can see how much they confirm Roberts’ vision of Australian rural life. Leigh Astbury observes that,

“Roberts was not, however, the first artist to depict the subject of shearing sheep. It had been previously treated in a few isolated paintings but, more frequently, shearers were shown at work in photographs and in illustrated newspapers and magazines during the 1870s and 80s. An exploration of the contemporary pictorial tradition reveals that in the formulation of his painting Roberts followed an established photographic and illustrative convention, as opposed to originating a new subject for artistic attention.”

“Roberts began preparatory studies for the picture at the Brocklesby station during the spring of 1888 when he made between seventy and eighty sketches of ‘the light, the atmosphere, the sheep, the men and the work’. … During the following spring of 1889 Roberts set out his canvas in the Brocklesby shed and began to paint the final work. He ‘picked out the most characteristic and picturesque of the shearers, the “rouseabouts” and the boy’, and carefully posed them in the manner he required… Shearing the rams was a carefully and consciously formulated painting executed over a long period, not an informal, ‘slice of life’ glimpsed in an Australian shearing shed. 

“Roberts, who worked as a photographer’s assistant, may have been aware of shearing scenes which appeared in contemporary photographs. A photograph entitled Shearing [see below], by a well-known Melbourne photographer, Charles Nettleton, anticipates the construction of pictorial space found in Shearing the rams. There is the same slightly diagonal thrust into distance, accentuated by the lines of the floorboards. The structure of the shearing shed roof plays a similar role in the composition, while one gains the same sense of rhythmic interval as the central poles recede into the background. Equally significant is the way the photograph conveys the quality and sources of light in the shed: the light filters through from outside and permeates the atmosphere.”1

.
This carefully planned composition, based on photographs and black and white illustrations, is a (social) construction and performance based on a reality that excludes outsiders and Other (namely Indigenous Australians in this case in point). Artist Dianne Jones rightly questions this deterministic, colonial envisioning of Australian heritage and national identity.

“Jones uses appropriation and reinterpretation to create conversations about issues that are important to her. By placing Aboriginal figures into historical artworks where previously there were none,  Jones makes us aware of their absence from Australian art and from Australian history…

Shearing the Rams provides an example of Jones’ ongoing concern with the lack of accurate Indigenous representation within Australian culture, particularly within iconic nationalistic images. The original oil painting created by Tom Roberts in 1890 celebrated pastoral life and labour, and came to be considered an icon of Australian Impressionism and popular history. Even if the painting itself is not instantly recognisable to the viewer, the sentiment behind it is familiar, it is a sentiment repeated within iconic images of Australia’s post-colonial history. By replacing some of the figures, who are all white men in Roberts’ painting, with male members of her own family, Jones is reasserting their previously unrecognised presence in this part of Australian history. Her family were actively involved in the pastoral industry, but this involvement has not previously been acknowledged or celebrated in any way.”2

.
This blindness and bigotry towards others continues to this day in rural and regional Australia. I have experienced it myself in rural areas of New South Wales. A certain right-wing conservatism permeates the land, is almost embedded in its ongoing structures. We need artists like Jones to shine a light into the dark corners of the Australian psyche, for only then will we begin to understand the long path as a nation that we have to travel, the new narratives that we must construct.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Extract from Leigh Astbury. “Tom Roberts’s Shearing the rams: the hidden tradition,” in Sonia Dean (ed.,). Art Journal 19. National Gallery of Victoria, Nd. [Online] Cited 26/07/2015
  2. Extract from Sarah Norris. “Dianne Jones: Revisiting/Revising Australian Icons,” on the Art Right Now website June 2013 [Online] Cited 16/07/2015

 

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Shearing, Quandong' (detail) 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Shearing, Quandong (detail)
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Shearing in Woolshed, Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Unknown photographer. 'Shearing in the Woolshed, Quandong' (detail) 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Shearing in the Woolshed, Quandong (detail)
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Charles Nettleton. 'Seven Creeks Station near Longwood. Shearing' c. 1880

 

Charles Nettleton (Australian, 1826-1902)
Seven Creeks Station near Longwood. Shearing
c. 1880
Albumen silver photograph
23.5 x 28.5cm on mount
Currie collection, State Library of Victoria

 

Tom Roberts (1856 - 1931) 'Shearing the Rams' 1888-1890

 

Tom Roberts (Australian, 1856-1931)
Shearing the Rams
1888-1890
Oil on canvas on composition board
122.4 x 183.3cm

 

Dianne Jones. 'Shearing the rams' 2001

 

Dianne Jones (Australian, b. 1966)
Shearing the rams
2001

Inkjet on canvas, edition of 10
121.9 x 182.6cm
© Dianne Jones

Please note: This image is used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic scholarship and art criticism.

 

 

Dianne Jones: Revisiting/Revising Australian Icons

Imagery plays an influential role in the formation of national identity. When this imagery is dominated by a particular cultural and ethnic perspective it results in the formation of a mythology that does not accurately reflect the culture it informs. Through her art practice Jones examines the relationship between popular imagery and national and personal identity. By questioning the validity of the imagery that has illustrated Australian history and has long been considered representative of Australian culture, Jones gives a voice, and a face, to those who were previously denied a place within the paradigm of Australian art.

Jones creates reproductions of classic Australian paintings in which the original image has been altered and reinterpreted. Images by artists such as Tom Roberts, Eugene von Guerard and Max Dupain have come to be representative of a romanticised Australian history. These well-known and well-loved images have had a significant role in defining Australian national identity, their nationalistic tone reflects a particular viewpoint of Australia’s post-colonial history. This viewpoint is limited and denies the experiences of many Australians, including the history of  Jones’ family. In spite of these limitations, these images continue to hold significant cultural value for many Australians. The status of the original paintings Jones reinterprets, as highly valued and iconic works, make them ideal choices for affective reinterpretation.

Jones uses appropriation and reinterpretation to create conversations about issues that are important to her. By placing Aboriginal figures into historical artworks where previously there were none,  Jones makes us aware of their absence from Australian art and from Australian history. She tries to make us aware of the lack of diversity in the images that are seen to illustrate Australian history and represent Australian culture. She highlights the absence of certain cultural groups by placing them back into the picture. In doing this she shows us how we can create a new and more accurate history that is inclusive rather than exclusive…

Shearing the Rams provides an example of Jones’ ongoing concern with the lack of accurate Indigenous representation within Australian culture, particularly within iconic nationalistic images. The original oil painting created by Tom Roberts in 1890 celebrated pastoral life and labour, and came to be considered an icon of Australian Impressionism and popular history. Even if the painting itself is not instantly recognisable to the viewer, the sentiment behind it is familiar, it is a sentiment repeated within iconic images of Australia’s post-colonial history. By replacing some of the figures, who are all white men in Roberts’ painting, with male members of her own family, Jones is reasserting their previously unrecognised presence in this part of Australian history. Her family were actively involved in the pastoral industry, but this involvement has not previously been acknowledged or celebrated in any way.

Extract from Sarah Norris. “Dianne Jones: Revisiting/Revising Australian Icons,” on the Art Right Now website June 2013 [Online] Cited 16/07/2015

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Horse and trap]
Quandong, 1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
At Quandong [Horse, foal and cart]
Quandong, 1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong from top of barn
Quandong, 1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Unknown photographer. 'Quandong' (detail) 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong (detail)
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong, N.S.W.
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Unknown photographer. 'Quandong' (detail) 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong (detail)
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
At Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Stile at Acme hut, Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8cm

 

 

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01
Jul
12

Review: ‘Fred Kruger: Intimate Landscapes’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 4th February – 8th July 2012

Please note: This posting may contain the names or images of people who are now deceased.  Some Indigenous communities may be distressed by seeing the name, or image of a community member who has passed away.

 

 

Fred Kruger. 'Winter scene, Lake Wendouree, from Botanic Gardens, Ballarat' c. 1866-88

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
Winter scene, Lake Wendouree, from Botanic Gardens, Ballarat
c. 1866-88
Albumen silver photograph
13.3 x 20.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl M. Curl, 1979

 

 

“Kruger’s sweeping view shows his sophisticated understanding of how an image can be constructed to encourage viewing. He positions people strategically throughout the photograph and at a slight remove so that they are part of, rather than dominant figure in, an intricate visual imaging of the populated landscape. Kruger was also careful to articulate each element clearly, and this clarity greatly appealed to nineteenth-century tastes…

The expectation in the 1870s and, to a lesser degree, today is that the documentary nature of most early photographs makes them ‘transparent’ in meaning. However, this is invariably not the case. Kruger’s photographs are complex constructions embedded as much in the political and social circumstances in which he lived as formed by his own creative talents and imaginative attitudes towards his adopted homeland. It is this combination of rich context, strong sense of time and place, and distinctive creative expression that makes Kruger’s work so notable in the history of Australian photography, and which gives his photographs the potential to engage with us more than 130 years later.”

.
Dr Isobel Crombie. ‘Fred Kruger: Intimate Landscape, Photographs 1860s-1880s’ Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2012, pp. 122-125

 

 

Fred Kruger: Intimate Landscapes is an interesting large-scale exhibition of the work of the one of Victoria’s leading early photographers. Accompanied by an erudite and well researched catalogue by Dr Isobel Crombie, Senior Curator, Photography, the exhibition and book provide the viewer with one of  their first chances to interrogate German-migrant Kruger’s pictorial style, images that  form an integral part of the National Gallery of Victoria’s nineteenth-century Australian collection.

Arriving in 1854 with his family from Berlin, Kruger changed profession from an upholsterer to a photographer in the mid-1860s, his work then widely ranging from picturesque views of Victoria (especially around his home town of Geelong) to portraits of properties both public and private and images that deal with topical events. Dr Crombie argues that it is his relationship with the landscape that shapes his creative vision, the origins of which are based on his childhood growing up in industrialised Berlin. “Kruger’s images offer a historical perspective on how European settlers altered the environment through farming and other developments, and also how they began to appreciate the picturesque qualities of the bush. Kruger’s images of the Aboriginal settlement of Corranderrk are a fascinating cased study in how photography was used to articulate and mythologise colonial race relations,” observes Dr Crombie. Above all, she continues, “… the range of Kruger’s photographs of Victoria tell a creative story of place: a distinct and intimate study of a region by a photographer whose command of the medium has a unique quality… Through his orchestration of people within the landscape, his images draw us into a particular experience of the landscape in specific, even self-conscious ways.”(Fred Kruger: Intimate Landscape, Photographs 1860s-1880s, p. 3)

The importance of Kruger’s visual actuity (his clearness of vision) and his place in the pantheon of Australian colonial photography are things that can be called into question. Personally I think that he has a lazy eye; the word that comes to mind when looking at most of his photographs is: banal. Claims made for his picturesque renditions of landscape – some of which remind me of Peter Henry Emerson’s Arcadian photographs of the Norfolk Broads (see Winter scene, Lake Wendouree, from Botanic Gardens, Ballarat, c. 1866-88, top) – and excursionists as “complex constructions embedded as much in the political and social circumstances in which he lived” require a contemporary structural exegesis. When looking at the photographs without such theorising his images are mostly basic, straight forward photographs with few perceptive camera angles and which display an emotional and observational distance from the place being imaged. I felt most of the photographs lacked a unique insight into the essence of the land. Perhaps this emanates from an emotional detachment from, and lack of a relationship to, the land; a felt, emotional response to place. Certainly I did not get the feeling of an intimate relationship with the landscape.

There are exceptions to the rule of course: the best of the landscape photographs have nothing to do with Arcadian, pastoral life at all. For me Kruger’s photographs only start to come alive when he is photographing gum trees against the sky. Anyone who has tried to photograph the Australian bush knows how difficult it is to evince a “feeling” for the bush and Kruger achieves this magnificently in a series of photographs of gum trees in semi-cleared land, such as Bush scene near Highton (c. 1879, above). These open ‘parklike’ landscapes are not sublime nor do they picture the spread of colonisation but isolate the gum trees against the sky. They rely on the thing itself to speak to the viewer, not a constructed posturing or placement of figures to achieve a sterile mise-en-scène. A view of the You Yangs, from Lara Plains (c. 1882, below) is a stunning photograph, locating the viewer in the expansionist world of late 19th century society. The ownership of the land is not displayed by the presence of people but by the occupation of the landscape – the fenced off domestic garden space delineated from the pastures beyond with their flock of sheep, buildings and water tower leading the eye to the distant vista of the You Yangs, all “taken” from the porch of the large homestead of the land owner. A beautiful, darkly-hued photograph of dis/possession, ownership and occupancy.

 

Fred Kruger. 'David Barak at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station' c. 1876

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
David Barak at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station
c. 1876
Albumen silver photograph
Museum Victoria

 

 

Kruger’s most powerful and evocative photographs are, perversely, photographs of the people en situ at the Aboriginal settlement at Coranderrk near Healesville, Victoria. “Coranderrk was an Indigenous Australian mission station set up in 1863 to provide land under the policy of concentration, for Aboriginal people who had been dispossessed by the arrival of Europeans to the state of Victoria 30 years prior” (Wikipedia) which became victim of its own success (in growing hops) and institutional and social racism. “By 1874 the Aboriginal Protection Board (APB) were looking at ways to undermine Coranderrk by moving people away due to their successful farming practices. The general community also wanted the mission closed as the land was too valuable for Aboriginal people.” (Wikipedia)

Kruger was commissioned by the government to take photographs of Coranderrk to support an inquiry into the operation of the station (but secretly to support its dismantling). It is ironic that Kruger’s photographs, his only portraits of human beings in the exhibition, the thing he least liked photographing, have become his most memorable work and only through payment being made. Kruger photographs ‘real natives’ (“full-blood” Aboriginals) standing by their mia-mias (bark homes), their lived experience excised in favour of a traditional pre-contact re-creation. He then contrasts them with the European dressed natives at Coranderrk. These photographs, representing the “civilising” of the residents at Coranderrk, also suggest people’s survival strategies – and how this approach involved a loss of traditional culture. His static portrayals of life at the station and family groups (due to the long time exposures required by the film) deny the animated energy of the lived experiences of these strong people.

The photograph Aboriginal men in canoe, Coranderrk Aboriginal Station (c. 1883, below) is an example of this pre-contact re-creation. This dark print, the darkest (in terms of tonality) in the exhibition shows two Aboriginal men in a traditional canoe wrapped in possum skin cloaks. The sad, wrapped Aboriginal men (especially the man on the right) with the threatening, effusive bush behind lead to the original inhabitants of this land almost disappearing into the landscape, being occluded and swallowed up by the bush and by history (don’t forget at this time the Aboriginal people were thought to be on the point of extinction). A disturbing photograph.

The ABSOLUTE reason why you must see this exhibition is just one photograph, David Barak at Coranderrk Aboriginal Station (c. 1876, above). This small, carte de visite sized photograph says more to me than most of the other photographs in the exhibition put together. It is almost as though the photographer had a personal attachment and connection to the subject. This poignant (in light of following events) dark, brown-hued photograph shows the son of elder and leader William Barak about the age of 9 years old in 1876. In 1882, David fell ill from tuberculosis and arrangements were made to admit him to hospital in Melbourne. These were thwarted by Captain Page, secretary of the Aboriginal Protection Board, and Barak had to carry his sick child all the way from Coranderrk to Melbourne and the home of his supporter Anne Bon. David was admitted to hospital but died soon after, with his father not even allowed to be by his bedside. After David’s death there is a heavy sadness noticeable in Barak’s eyes (see the book First Australians by Rachel Perkins, Marcia Langton, p. 104).

Unlike other photographs of family groups taken at Coranderrk, Kruger places David front on to the camera in the lower 2/3 rds of the picture plane on his own, framed by the symmetry of the steps and door behind. David glasps his hands in a tight embrace in front of him (nervously?), his bare feet touching the earth, his earth. The only true highlight in the photograph is a white neckerchief tied around his throat. There is an almost halo-like radiance around his head, probably caused by holding back (dodging) during the printing process. Small, timid but strong, in too short trousers and darker jacket, this one image – of a child, a human being, standing on the earth that was his earth before invasion – has more intimacy than any other image Kruger ever took, even as he tried to engender a sense of intimacy with the environment.

While claims will be made about the importance of Kruger’s photographs of the Australian landscape and their sense of ease in this environment, a relational concept predicated on security and familiarity, his photographs remain deeply detached from the reality of lived experience. To my eyes they are documents of their time that rarely rise above basic reportage despite claims of the importance of placing people within the environment and the unique vision of the photographer. A sense of travel, one of the most important aspects of Kruger’s work as he journeyed around Victoria, is also absent in this exhibition, mainly because of the thematic nature of the sections of the exhibition and the hang. Sections such as buildings, places, homesteads, Coranderrk, for example, leave little sense of the adventure of travel and the integration of all of these things into a holistic whole. Perhaps a more inclusive hang would have disavowed this disjuncture and given a greater sense of the excitement of travel in colonial Victoria, the exploration of newly colonised spaces. Only in the section on Coranderrk do I believe that we actually get a feeling for the enigmatic Kruger and his personal connection to other human beings and the land to which he migrated. The wonderful catalogue, a select group of beautiful photographs, the section on life at the Aboriginal settlement at Coranderrk and the small, intimate photograph of David Barak are the main reasons to travel this path in the 21st century. The last is especially poignant, moving and illuminating. Well done to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing us to see these rare photographs.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Fred Kruger. 'View on the Moorabool River, Batesford' c. 1879

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
View on the Moorabool River, Batesford
c. 1879
Albumen silver photograph
18.4 x 27.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl Curl, 1979

 

Fred Kruger. 'Bush scene near Highton' c. 1879

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
Bush scene near Highton
c. 1879
Albumen silver photograph
18.4 x 27.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl Curl, 1979

 

Fred Kruger. 'A view of the You Yangs, from Lara Plains' c. 1882

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
A view of the You Yangs, from Lara Plains
c. 1882
Albumen silver photograph
18.4 x 27.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl Curl, 1979

 

Fred Kruger. 'Aboriginal cricketers at Coranderrk' c. 1877

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
Aboriginal cricketers at Coranderrk
c. 1877
Albumen silver photograph
13.3 x 18.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl M. Curl, 1979

 

Fred Kruger. 'Aboriginal men in canoe, Coranderrk Aboriginal Station' c. 1883

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888
Aboriginal men in canoe, Coranderrk Aboriginal Station
c. 1883
Albumen silver photograph
19.9 x 27.1cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl M. Curl, 1979

 

 

On 4 February the National Gallery of Victoria will open Fred Kruger: Intimate Landscapes, the first comprehensive survey of Fred Kruger’s (1831-88) photographs ever to be mounted. Fred Kruger was one of the leading landscape photographers of the 19th century in Australia, working extensively throughout Victoria. Kruger migrated from Germany in 1860 and a few years later opened a photographic studio in Carlton, Melbourne before moving his thriving practice to Geelong.

Fred Kruger: Intimate Landscapes features over 100 works drawn predominantly from the NGV Collection and incorporates loans from Museum Victoria, the State Library of Victoria and private collections. Many of the photographs in this exhibition depict iconic locations that will be familiar to Victorians, providing visitors with a glimpse back more than 130 years to scenes at the You Yangs, the Esplanade at Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale among others. This compelling exhibition also showcases Kruger’s highly distinctive command of photographic language, providing a fascinating insight into the political and social life of Victoria in the 1800s. Kruger’s photographs show how European settlers altered the environment through farming and other developments while also depicting their growing appreciation of the picturesque qualities of the bush. The contrast between Kruger’s heavily industrialised home city of Berlin and the spaciousness of his adopted home country intrigued him as he pictured the Victorian landscape as an environment of prosperity, productivity and ease.

Isobel Crombie, Senior Curator, Photography said: “Kruger’s photographs draw us into an intimate experience of the landscape and are achieved through his orchestration of people within natural environments.”

Frances Lindsay, Deputy Director, NGV said: “Kruger’s photographs are complex constructions embedded as much in the political and social circumstances in which he lived, as they are formed by his own creative talents and imaginative attitudes towards the land that he had made his home.”

Kruger made the most of the photographic opportunities presented to him. From the late 1860s he drove a horse and cart around Victoria taking both scenic views and private commissions. His most political commission was to record life at the Aboriginal settlement of Coranderrk Station at the request of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines.

Working at a time of rebellion at the station, Kruger’s images highlighted colonial race relations and still have importance today. These photographs were also widely circulated at the time, being reproduced in illustrated newspapers, included in international exhibitions and sold as part of albums. It is this combination of rich context, strong sense of time and place and distinctive creative expression that makes Kruger’s work so notable in the history of Australian photography.

This exhibition is accompanied by a major publication comprehensively exploring Fred Kruger’s career. 
This exhibition may contain the names or images of people who are now deceased.  Some Indigenous communities may be distressed by seeing the name, or image of a community member who has passed away.

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

 

Fred Kruger. 'View on Barwon River, Queen’s Park, Geelong' c. 1880

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
View on Barwon River, Queen’s Park, Geelong
c. 1880
Albumen silver photograph
18.4 x 27.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl Curl, 1979

 

Fred Kruger. 'Steamboat jetty and bathing houses, from Esplanade, Queenscliff' c. 1878-82

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
Steamboat jetty and bathing houses, from Esplanade, Queenscliff
c. 1878-82
Albumen silver photograph
18.4 x 27.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl M. Curl, 1979

 

Fred Kruger. 'Coast scene, Mordialloc Creek, near Cheltenham' c. 1871

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
Coast scene, Mordialloc Creek, near Cheltenham
c. 1871
Albumen silver photograph
18.4 x 27.2cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl M. Curl, 1979

 

Fred Kruger. 'Wreck of the ship George Roper, Point Lonsdale' 1883

 

Fred Kruger (born Germany 1831, arrived Australia 1860, died 1888)
Wreck of the ship George Roper, Point Lonsdale
1883
Albumen silver photograph
18.4 x 27.2 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Beryl M. Curl, 1979

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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20
Jul
11

Review: ‘Paradise’ by Brook Andrew at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th June – 30th July 2011

 

Brook Andrew 'Paradise' installation at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Brook Andrew Paradise installation at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

 

This is a strong, refined photo-ethnographic exhibition by Brook Andrew at Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne, one that holds the viewers attention, an exhibition that is witty and inventive if sometimes veering too closely to the simplistic and didactic in some works.

Rare postcards of Indigenous peoples and their colonising masters and surrounded by thick polished wood frames (the naturalness of the wood made smooth and perfect) and coloured neon lights that map out the captured identities, almost like a highlighting texta and forms of urban graffiti. This device is especially effective in works such as Men and Women (both 2011, below) with their male and female neon forms, and Flow Chart (2011, below) that references an anthropological map.

Other works such as Monument 1 (2011, below) lay the postcards into the rungs of a small step ladder covered in white paint that has echoes of the colonisers renovation of suburban homes and becomes a metaphor for the Indigenous peoples being stepped on, oppressed and downtrodden. In a particularly effective piece, Monument 2 (2011, below) the viewer stares down into a black box with multiple layers of neon that spell out the words ‘I see you’ in the Wiradjuri language: we can relate this work to Lacan’s story of the sardine can, where the point of view of the text makes us, the viewer, seem rather out of place in the picture, an alien in the landscape. The text has us in its sights making us uncomfortable in our position.

The work Paradise (2011, six parts, above) can certainly be seen as paradise lost but the pairing of black / white / colour postcards is the most reductive of the whole exhibition vis a vis Indigenous peoples and the complex discourse involved in terms of oppression, exploitation, empowerment, identity, mining rights and land ownership. The two quotations below can be seen to be at opposite ends of the same axis in this discourse. My apologies for the long second quotation but it is important to understand the context of what Akiko Ono is talking about with regard to the production of Indigenous postcards.

 

White… has the strange property of directing our attention to color while in the very same movement it exnominates itself as a color. For evidence of this we need look no further than to the expression “people of color,” for we know very well that this means “not White.” We know equally well that the color white is the higher power to which all colors of the spectrum are subsumed when equally combined: white is the sum totality of light, while black is the total absence of light. In this way elementary optical physics is recruited to the psychotic metaphysics of racism, in which White is “all” to Black’s “nothing”…”

.
Victor Burgin 1

 

“In his study of Aboriginal photography, Peterson also looks at the dynamics of colonial power relations in which both European and Aboriginal subjects are constituted in and by their relations to each other. Peterson in the main writes about two different contexts of the usage of photography of Aboriginal people

1. popular usage of photographs, especially in the form of postcards in the early twentieth century (Peterson 1985, 2005)

2. anthropologists’ ethnographic involvement with photography (Peterson 2003, 2006).

Regarding the first, Peterson depicts how the discourses of atypical (that is, disorganised) family structures and destitution among Aboriginal people were produced and interacted with the prevalent moral discourses of the time. He makes an important remark about the interactive dimensions that existed between the photographer and the Aboriginal subject. Hand-printed postcards in the same period showed much more positive images of Aboriginal people (Peterson 2005: 18-22). These were ‘real’ photographs taken by the photographers who had daily interactions with Aboriginal people…

Peterson gives greater attention to photographs taken by anthropologists for scientific purposes, and in this second context provides a more detailed treatment of his insight regarding the discrepancies between the colonisers’ discourse and the actual visual knowledge that photography offers…

These two contexts are not, of course, mutually exclusive. By dealing with image ethics and the changing photographic contract, Peterson (2003) shows the interlocking formations of popular image, anthropological knowledge and Aboriginal self-representation. In particular, it is important to remember that Aboriginal people have not always rejected collaboration with and appropriation of the idioms of the coloniser. Aboriginal people were not bothered by posing for photographers to produce images such as ‘naked’ Aboriginal men and women in formal pose, accompanied by an ‘unlikely combination’ of weapons (Peterson 2005); and at times complex negotiations occurred between the photographer and the photographed – resulting in both consent and refusal (Peterson 2003: 123-31).

These anecdotes suggest the necessity of unravelling the ‘lived’ dimensions of colonial and / or racial subjugation and resistance to that subjugation from the site of their occurrence …

Rather than scrutinising the authenticity of Aboriginality or taking it for granted that ethnographic photography is doomed to reproduce a colonial or anthropological power structure, it is more important to attend to the ‘instances in which colonized subjects undertake to represent themselves in ways that engage with the colonizer’s own terms’, as Pratt (1992: 7, emphasis in the original) suggests. She proposes the term ‘autoethnography’ to refer to these instances: ‘If ethnographic texts are a means by which Europeans represent to themselves their (usually subjugated) others, autoethnographic texts are those the others construct in response to or in dialogue with those metropolitan representations’ (Pratt 1992).

.
Akiko Ono 2

 

The work Paradise buys into the first quotation in a big way, playing as it does with the idioms of black / white / colour. It can also be seen as a form of autoethnographic text that uses rare postcards to critique historical relations between peoples and cultures. What it does not do, I feel, is delve deeper to try to understand the “interlocking formations of popular image, anthropological knowledge and Aboriginal self-representation” and resistance to that subjugation from the site of their occurrence. As the quotation observes “Aboriginal people have not always rejected collaboration with and appropriation of the idioms of the coloniser” and it is important to understand how the disciplinary systems of the coloniser (the ethnographic documenting through photography) were turned on their head to empower Indigenous people who undertake to represent themselves in ways that engage with the coloniser’s own terms. Nothing is ever just black and white. It is the interstitial spaces between that are always the most interesting.

In conclusion this an elegant exhibition of old and new, an autoethnographic text that seeks to address critical issues that look back at us and say – ‘I see you’.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

1. Burgin, Victor. In/Different Spaces: Place and Memory in Visual Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, p. 131

2. Ono, Akiko. “Who Owns the ‘De-Aboriginalised’ Past? Ethnography meets photography: a case study of Bundjalung Pentecostalism,” in Musharbash, Yasmine and Barber, Marcus (eds.,). Ethnography & the Production of Anthropological Knowledge: Essays in honour of Nicolas Peterson. The Australian National University E Press [Online] Cited 16/07/2011 (no longer available online)

  • Peterson, N. 1998. “Welfare colonialism and citizenship: politics, economics and agency,” in N. Peterson and W. Sanders (eds), Citizenship and Indigenous Australians: Changing Conceptions and Possibilities, pp. 101-17. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Peterson, N. 1999. “Hunter-gatherers in first world nation states: bringing anthropology home.” Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology 23 (4): 847-61.
  • Peterson, N. 2003. “The changing photographic contract: Aborigines and image ethics,” in C. Pinney and N. Peterson (eds), Photography’s Other Histories, pp. 119-45. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Peterson, N. 2005. “Early 20th century photography of Australian Aboriginal families: illustration or evidence?” Visual Anthropology Review 21 (1-2): 11-26.
  • Peterson, N. 2006. “Visual knowledge: Spencer and Gillen’s use of photography in The Native Tribes of Central Australia.” Australian Aboriginal Studies (1): 12-22
  • Pratt, M. L. 1992. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writings and Transculturation. London: Routledge

.
Footnote 1. Peterson has built up a collection of process-printed (that is, mass-produced) postcard images and hand-printed images dating from 1900 to 1920 (that is, real photographic postcards), over 20 years, during which time he obtained a copy every time he saw a new image. He feels confident that he has seen two-thirds of the process-printed picture postcards from the period although it is harder to estimate how many hand-printed images were circulating (Peterson 2005: 25n.3). He had a collection of 528 process-printed postcards (Peterson 2005: 25) and 272 hand-printed photographs (p. 18) by 2005.

.
Many thankx to Olivia Radonich for her help and to Tolarno Galleries for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Images courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne. Photos by Christian Capurro.

 

 

Brook Andrew 'Paradise' installation at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Brook Andrew Paradise installation at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Brook Andrew. 'Paradise 1 (red)' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Paradise 1 (red)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
24.5 x 28.5 x 8 cm

 

Brook Andrew. 'Paradise 2 (orange)' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Paradise 2 (orange)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
24.5 x 34 x 8 cm

 

Brook Andrew. 'Paradise 3 (yellow)' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Paradise 3 (yellow)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
24.5 x 28.5 x 8 cm

 

Brook Andrew. 'Paradise 4 (green)' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Paradise 4 (green)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
25 x 33.5 x 8 cm

 

Brook Andrew. 'Paradise 5 (magenta)' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Paradise 5 (magenta)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
24.5 x 28 x 8

 

Brook Andrew Flow Chart 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Flow Chart
2011
Rare postcards, sapele and neon
283 x 449.5 x 8.5 cm

 

Brook Andrew 'Paradise' installation at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Brook Andrew Paradise installation at Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

 

Brook Andrew 'Men' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Men
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
82 x 264 x 12.5 cm

 

Brook Andrew 'Women' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Women
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
179 x 179 x 6 cm

 

Brook Andrew 'Women' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Women (detail)
2011
Rare postcards, sapele, and neon
179 x 179 x 6 cm

 

 

Tolarno Galleries is pleased to present Paradise, a major solo exhibition by Brook Andrew. Widely regarded as a multi-disciplinary artist, Brook Andrew’s Jumping Castle War Memorial was a highlight of the 17th Biennale of Sydney. Recently his major installation, Ancestral Worship 2010, was included in 21st Century: Art in the First Decade at Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. His powerful new installation – Marks and Witness: A Lined crossing in Tribute to William Barak 2011 – was commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria and is currently on display at Federation Square, Melbourne.

Paradise expands Brook Andrew’s interest in forgotten histories. His new works ask us to think about what has disappeared from our worlds, literally, and also from our consciousness. The exhibition features a number of assemblages made in neon and wood and incorporating rare postcards and photographs collected over many years. Men 2011 includes the original postcard that became the source for Sexy and Dangerous, Andrew’s iconic work of 1995.

Brook Andrew’s continuing search for curious portrait images from the 19th and early 20th century represents his fascination with the way the camera has documented a particular ‘colonial’ gaze and an interest in the exotic. Outlining or highlighting these images in glorious colored neon emphasizes this point.

However bright the neon, Brook Andrew’s works are characterised by a formal beauty and simplicity that explores conceptually complex ideas and themes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Monument 4, a ‘boomerang bar’ or Monument 2, a black lacquer box of neon containing the words ‘I see you’ in Wiradjuri. Gazing into this ‘well of words’ is like looking into infinity.

Brook Andrew’s work is held in every major collection in Australia. An important survey of his work: Brook Andrew Eye to Eye was presented by Monash University Museum of Art in 2007. In 2008 his work was showcased in Theme Park at AAMU Museum of Contemporary Aboriginal Art in The Netherlands. Major publications accompanied both of these solo exhibitions.”

Press release from Tolarno Galleries

 

Brook Andrew 'Monument 2' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Monument 2
2011
Black lacquer, wood, perspex, neon, mirror and wire
38 x 99 x 87 cm

 

Brook Andrew 'Monument 2' 2011 (detail)

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Monument 2 (detail)
2011
Black lacquer, wood, perspex, neon, mirror and wire
38 x 99 x 87 cm

 

Brook Andrew. '18 lives in Paradise' Single box detail

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
18 lives in Paradise
Single box detail
2011

 

 

The basic unit used in 18 Lives in Paradise is a cardboard printed box 50 x 50 x 50 cm. The boxes are the building blocks for a sculpture, wall or any other structure. The box is also a parody of the courier box – those containers daily transported around the globe in the vast movement of lives and identities today. What was thought of as fixed may not be so.

The images are sourced from postcards. The postcards range from the early to mid-twentieth century and form part of a worldwide curiosity in indigenous people, circus acts and personalities, environment and resources … The images come together as an assemblage of ‘freaks’ and represent the collision paths of indigenous and non-indigenous cultures; those being documented out of curiosity and those belonging to dominant cultures who have used the land and its people for entertainment and wealth.

18 Lives in Paradise can form a column or wall. It can be a barrier, a beacon or epitaph. En masse, the boxes are a symbol of many lives whose identities are sometimes twisted for the gaze of the curious world.

Brook Andrew 2011

 

Brook Andrew 'Monument 1' 2011

 

Brook Andrew (Australian, b. 1970)
Monument 1
2011
Black lacquer, are postcards, wood, mirror and metal
104.5 x 69.5 x 58 cm

 

 

Tolarno Galleries
Level 4, 104 Exhibition Street
Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
Phone: +61 3 9654 6000

Opening hours:
Tues – Fri 10 am – 5 pm
Sat 1 pm – 5 pm

Tolarno Galleries website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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