How landscape photographers reimagined the colonial project in Australia

Colonial history is brimming with goods and services. In the early 1800s, wool created immense wealth for squatters and pastoralists, as well as substantial investments in Australia. Australian colonies. Gold in the early 1850s enticed hundreds of thousands of people to work on the earth or to work the diggings. Tin, copper, coal, barley, wheat, and cotton all became important at various times.

In the magnificent cathedrals of the late 19th-century self-representation of the colonial as well as during the International Exhibitions, any visitor will have noticed the manner in which New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania were attempting to connect with the products made in these areas.

In an image from 1879 which, it was evident that the NSW Department of Mines filled its part of the building that was used for exhibitions, the Garden Palace, with silver ingots, gold ore, and samples of tin. The balconies above contained coal sections as well as geological maps.

The striking mining exhibits inside the Garden Palace, 1879. Collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney

While browsing through these displays, the visitor could be able to see the walls of photographs of landscapes that, echoing the logical process of extractive settlement colonialism, attempted to weave all of these rudimentary elements together into a picture of abundant nature.

Photographers snapped images of the emergence of colonies, seemingly uninhabited landscapes, as well as stunning views of colonial cities that are emerging.

The rising popularity of these images during the latter decades of the nineteenth century proves that the colonial expansion wasn’t just caused by the search for the raw materials needed to extract and extract. The colonial period in Australia was also the result of imagery and vision, actually developed through the use of chemicals as well as glass and light.

Charles Bayliss and Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, Panorama of Sydney and the Harbour, New South Wales, 1875. Prints of albumen on cloth. Art Gallery of New South Wales

I’ve studied more than 2000 photographs of early landscapes, which were captured by six photographers from the settler community between the 1850s and 1930s. They illustrate the way that colonization was reimagined in the imaginative world of places instead of simply by moving people from one place to the next as in the Lockean mix of earth and labor or even the transfer of deeds.

Visions of nature facilitated an entirely different type of investing in the colonial land. They brought feelings of belonging to people who did not even turn a sod. The photos show that, as American eco-historian William Cronon has insisted, nature is a deeply human artifact.

In colonies that were settled, landscape photography depicted nature as stunning, accessible, and unspoiled. The landscape photography of Victoria and Tasmania, specifically the landscape photography, grew. Even though this type of photography was not exclusively antipodean – it was a style that was first introduced and then refined in the American West by photographers like Carleton Watkins and Eadweard Muybridge. Then, it was certainly a significant success throughout Australia. Australian colonies.

J. W. Lindt, Lindt’s Hermitage, 1894. Gelatin Silver print. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

A photographic sleight-of-hand

Some figures like Nicholas CaireJohn Lindt, and John Beattie took on the camera to help the settlers feel comfortable in the Australian environment. This view obscured the ancient possession and the ongoing presence of First Nations peoples, turning their land into a wilderness with the use of a camera to create a visual illusion.

Read more: Indigenous knowledge and the persistence of the ‘wilderness’ myth.

The best example of this was in Victoria, where Caire and Lindt began framing the stretch of bush between Healesville and Narbethong as a kind of wilderness retreat from the late 1870s.

Caire, who was born in Guernsey at the age of 1837, joined this collaboration through South Australia, the forests of Gippsland, and the Goldfields. Lindt, originally from Frankfurt, was finishing taking photographs of Bundjalung and Gumbaynggir tribespeople on the Clarence River in northern NSW.

In the year 1878, Caire was able to capture Fairy Scene at the Landslip, Blacks’ Spur, which soon turned into one of the most viewed photos.

Nicholas Caire, Fairy Scene at the Landslip, Blacks’ Spur in c. 1878. National Gallery of Victoria

In the painting, Caire focuses on a forest of ferns arranged along the edge of the valley. The 1904 article by Caire and Lindt exclaimed about the wildness of this part of the Great Forest, the epoch-making that the trees had, as well as Fernshaw’s “refreshing” seclusion of Fernshaw. Lindt wrote that the attraction of these places went back to their ability to “carry you back to the morning of time.”

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