Exhibition - Melbourne International 1880

Melbourne International Exhibition 1880

PHOTOGRAPHY.
The Argus (Melbourne)
Melbourne International Exhibition 1880 Argus Supplement
Thursday 6 January 1881

The display of photographs throughout the various courts, though somewhat scattered, is extensive, and while far from being representative of the present status of the art-science of photography, is certainly miscellaneous enough. Silver printing appears to be almost universally practised in the colonies. Some few examples of carbon printing are shown here and there, the most considerable contribution coming from Sydney. Ceramic photography has one representative in Mr Nelson R. Cherrill (sic), Christchurch, New Zealand, formerly a partner of Mr H. P. Robinson, of Leamington and Tunbridge Wells, who enjoys a European reputation for his artistic compositions, "Bringing home the May," and many other works. "Opaltype" is seen in some very indifferent specimens, and the "Powder process," so great in the hands of Robert Faulkner and others, has no representative in the colonies. There is, of course, no military school of photography, such as that brought to a high standard of perfection by Captain Abney, R.E., now Inspector of Science at South Kensington, where most of its applications are systematically taught and practised. An officer of engineers is expected to be able to practise surveying by its aid, multiply maps of the topography of a country en route, make scientific or astronomical observations, or superintend the production of microscopic despatches on films so delicate, so minute, that two million letters can be enclosed in a quill about the size of a toothpick, and fastened to a tail feather of a carrier pigeon. A considerable number of non-commissioned officers pass through these schools and laboratories and field equipments are all kept up to the most perfect standard of efficiency, Lieutenant Darwin, R. E., a son of the renowned Dr Darwin, being at present at the head of the military establishment.

In portraiture, we remark that altogether a high standard of excellence may be said to prevail in both Melbourne and Sydney. Retouching is extensively practised. The gelatino-bromide dry-plate process, which has in England, in a comparatively short period, revolutionised studio practice, has found one or two worthy adherents in Melbourne in Mr J. W. Lindt and Messrs. Foster and Martin, who practise it with perfect success, indeed in precisely the same manner and of the same standard of excellence as with the best London practitioners. The process is from 10 to 15 times as sensitive as wet collodion and the result tells enormously in the matter of expression, animation, and freedom from that wooden look long sitting produced so often on the unhappy subject. By the use of rapid rectilinear lenses, admitting of the use of large apertures, with the minimum of spherical aberration, instantaneous pictures of anything under the sun are possible.

Framed portraits are exhibited by Messrs Johnstone, O'Shannessy, and Co., Foster and Martin, J. W. Lindt, and N. Caire of Melbourne. Many of them are of the highest standard, soft, round, well-lighted, with plenty of delicate half tones, and free from hardness or chalkiness. If there is any fault to be found, we might say there is too little variety in the pose, a too frequent resort to stock attitudes, lacking in spontaneity and originality. Messrs. Matthews and Co., of Geelong, exhibit some good portraits. A large number of photographs of public buildings, townships, physical features of the country, &c., are displayed; some of them by Mr C. Nettleton, of Melbourne, are good examples of this class. From Sydney we have enlargements by Boyd of Sir Henry Parkes and others coloured, all of large size. Also a large composition, in which full length portraits of the commissioners of the Sydney Exhibition are combined in one scene, representing the interior of a council-chamber or board-room. Mr J. Hubert Newman, of Sydney, displays two enlargements. One, " The Water Fall, Govett's Leap, Blue Mountains," is very fine and of the largest dimensions, 48in x 24in. The other, "The Gorge, Blue Mountains," is not equally good. Mr J. H. Newman also exhibits a large collection of architectural subjects of large size (24in. x 18in.), principally of public buildings in Sydney. We cannot speak of them so highly as we desire. They all suffer from under exposure-some of them markedly so. Messrs. Hart and Roux, of Sydney, exhibit the only examples of mechanical printing in the colonies. South Australia displays a number of views of public buildings. Queensland shows some remarkable photographs of a tribe of "hairless blacks", taken by Baron Maclay, the Russian explorer. Tasmania, through the commissioners, exhibits views of Tasmanian scenery and public buildings.

New Zealand sends a large contingent of photographs of scenery, public buildings, and portraits. Clifford and Morris, of Dunedin, send some good examples of their work; Wrigglesworth and Binns, Wellington, make a large display; Hart, Campbell, and Co., Queenstown, Otago, find in the Lake Wakatipu districts abundant materials for the pursuit of the picturesque, the view from Hector's Creek, near the head of Lake Wakatipu, is a picture, though small in size. Their moonlight effects suffer from the suspicion always thrown on such unattainable subjects. A number of interesting views on Christchurch road are exhibited by Hanwell Williams, of Greymouth. Some of the most artistic views in the New Zealand Court, by W. T. Locke Travers, F.L.S. , Wellington, are printed so flat as to do great injustice to very fine negatives. Bartlett, Auckland, has some interesting views, and Burton Brothers, of Dunedin, display a number of views of large size printed in carbon. J. Bragge sends a very fine collection of photographs of Wellington. There are besides many interesting prints of native races, townships, &c. To a stranger, perhaps, the large frame of portraits of the House of Representatives will be most interesting, containing, as it does the Maori members, looking very well in European costume, with their hair worn quite en r├Ęgle, beard, and moustache, Albert chain, collar and necktie, like gentlemen of the period.

Fiji, judging from the excellent views by F. H. Dufty, Levuka, must be a pleasant land in which to live. The native portraits are of great value to the ethnologist. Ceylon contributes a large number of photographs of studies from nature, coffee plantations, &c. Belgium exhibits views of Bruges and its ancient belfry. The large photographs exhibited by the Minister of Public Works, France, remain in Victoria, being part of the liberal presentation made by the French Government. The facade of the new opera house in Paris is a remarkably fine and useful acquisition. Others show the interiors of the schools of the Fine Arts, one of them entirely occupied by moulages, or casts. Also the Bibliotheque Nationale, the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, and that for the deaf and dumb-des Sourdes Muettes.

The finest landscapes in the Exhibition consist of 12 Alpine views by B. Johannes, of Bavaria, placed in a remote part of the German court. Everyone interested in photography should see them. They are the best transcript that can be given (barring colour) of the indescribable majesty and beauty of Alpine scenery. Soft yet forcible, brilliant yet full of delicate gradation, the selection of the point of view, and balance of the composition and mode of lighting matters quite within the control of the photographer are simply perfect. The geological configuration in some of them is admirably rendered. Italy displays two portraits of magnificent dimensions taken direct, and a number of volumes of Italian architecture, &c.

America displays some large portraits of General Grant, the Emperor of the Brazils, King Kalakua, Lord Augustus Loftus, and others, by Bradley and Rulofson, of San Francisco, and a large number of portraits by Tuttle and Co. People who desire, after the manner of Madame Rachel, to be made beautiful for ever cannot do better than adopt this style. Retouching is carried so far as to completely deprive these presentments of men and women of all individuality of character.

When we remember that, as in water-colour painting, England stands supreme in landscape photography, we are constrained to say that practically the mother country makes no display in one of the most beautiful phases of English art. Vernon Heath's fine enlargements of "Burnham Beeches," from 12 by 10 negatives, "Windsor Castle," "Views on the Thames," are all too well known and admired to need expatiating upon here. Some very fine "studies," by George Nesbitt, F.S.A., of Bournemouth, are hung in the passage leading to the commissioner's offices. "Crossing the Stream" is a picture in monochrome, hung out of reach. The three studies entitled "On Guard" (platino- type), "The Broken Leg," and "Tired Companions," have received the highest encomiums in England. They are all true to nature. There is no striving after the unattainable by photographic means, and consequently they are strong in that strength which comes of simple and legitimate aims. His "Brigands" are not so good, one can see they are perfectly harmless; and "Maiden Meditation" is too self-conscious, though good photography. Why these fine photographs should be here is one of those freaks of hanging that passes comprehension. Why also Colonel Stuart-Wortley, of the South Kensington Museum - a most distinguished photographer - should have had all his large "Studies of Heads" and "Sea and Sky" relegated to the dark staircase of the picture gallery requires explanation, for the position is perfectly absurd, and want of room cannot be accepted as an adequate excuse. Those gentlemen who fortunately decided on not contributing may be congratulated on their happy abstention.

The general conclusions at which we arrive from a comprehensive survey of the exhibits is that any adequate representation of the beauty of Australian scenery is yet a work for the future. Possibly there is not yet a sufficient demand to make it a remunerative undertaking. At any rate, there are no landscape photographers pure and simple. The views exhibited by Mr J. W. Lindt are very beautiful - full of tender gradation and delicate half tones - but they are limited in number.

No comments: