Stereoscope view of "Great Collins St Melbourne from Treasury steps", from the series "Australian Scenery" Charles WALTER.
Stereoscope view of "Great Collins St Melbourne from Treasury steps", from the series "Australian Scenery".

Stereoscope view of "Great Collins St Melbourne from Treasury steps"…
Stereoscope view of "Great Collins St Melbourne from Treasury steps", from the series "Australian Scenery".

Melbourne: Age Office, probably, 1865.

Stereographic photograph mounted on dark yellow card, left image creased and with a few spots, printed label verso completed in manuscript; very good.

Very early photographic view of Collins Street, circa 1865: this apparently unrecorded stereoscopic card depicts an enigmatic view of the city, and makes a significant new addition to the relatively small corpus of photographs of Melbourne from this period.

Very early photographic view of Collins Street, circa 1865: this apparently unrecorded stereoscopic card depicts an enigmatic view of the city, and makes a significant new addition to the relatively small corpus of photographs of Melbourne from this period.
The label on the verso has been completed in manuscript with the caption "Great Collins St. Melbourne from Treasury Steps" (the Treasury building was completed in 1862).
Australians were introduced to stereoscopic photography in 1853 by Douglas Kilburn (see the entry in the DAAO), and over the following decade a few of the pioneer practitioners began to investigate the new medium. This and the following three cards were taken by Charles Walter (fl. 1855-1907), an important if largely unheralded early exponent of photography in Victoria (there is no entry for him in the DAAO). Walter arrived in Australia from Germany in 1855 and was collecting for his patron, botanist Baron Ferdinand von Mueller by 1856. His earliest known photograph is dated 1862, and he was advertising as a 'Country Photographic Artist' by 1865. Gael Newton locates him at the vanguard of 'the new breed of photographers' specialising in landscape work, who, from the mid-1860s, 'set off on solo expeditions into remote parts of Victoria in search of picturesque views' (Jane Lydon, 'The Experimental 1860s,' Aboriginal History, 2002). In the 1860s he was the first to photograph the newly founded Aboriginal reserves and is known to have visited Coranderrk in 1865 and 1866, and the Gippsland region in 1868.
These four photographs, recently unearthed in the United States, appear to be orphans of what was evidently planned as a rather grand project. Printed labels to the back of three of the cards have the title "Australian Scenery" by Chas. Walter, "Photographic Artist to the Illustrated Australian News", but also with mention of "The Age Office, Melb." What happened to this project? Nothing about it appears in standard works by Jack Cato, Robert Holden, Alan Davies or Peter Stanbury. Nor are there any obvious hints in Trove or any of the other online databases. Was "Australian Scenery" in fact shelved once Walter agreed to visit the Aboriginal Missions - certainly the technical expertise of his Aboriginal portraits and views seems an improvement on the skills evident here, perhaps suggesting that this was an informal apprenticeship.
Interestingly, at least one of the Coranderrk images ("Group of Australian men and a woman", SLVIC, H32549/2) has a similar label with mention of the Age and the legend "Photographic Artist to the Illustrated Australian News", but the heading there appears to be "Australian Natives", perhaps confirming Walter's shift in direction. More research could be done, but these photographs are a contribution to the earliest phase of the photographic history of Australia.

Price (AUD): $1,600.00  other currencies     Ref: #4008158

See all items by