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Helen Ennis on Australian landscape photography « Previous | |Next »
February 5, 2012

Helen Ennis in her Australia and Photography says that the viewpoint in landscape photography in Australia has been almost exclusively European, as it has been the practice of settler Australia and the expression of a settler colonial culture.

AnsonBrosBatteryrocks.jpg Anson Bros, Battery Rocks, Corra Lynn, Launceston, circa 1885, sepia toned

Ennis adds that:

In contrast to the United States where photography went hand and hand with the opening up of the American frontier, in Australia it did not ... From the outset landscape photographers in Australia have tended to base their practice on an extended and often intimate engagement with a particular area or site---for example, or through return visits ... The approaches developed by landscapists have proved remarkably consistent. The predilection has been for the settled, humanized landscape above all else, and inland areas rather than the coast. The modes of representation used most widely have generally been undramatic: the picturesque and a more prosaic that emerged in the 1890s and persistent for decades. The latter, a landscape of the everyday, can be seen in part as a response to the hugely influential work of of the Australian Impressionist painters known as the Heidelberg School. (pp. 53-54).

Consequently, the sublime, which flourished in early nineteenth century painting, had little sway on photographic practice. The natural world was not represented as overpowering or beyond human reach.

Photographic culture in the nineteenth century was primarily utilitarian and focused on documenting compelling proof of the success of colonization:

Landscapes that were ordinary rather than awesome provided a measure of reassurance to settlers who found themselves, not only displaced from 'home' on the other side of the world, but living in a vastly different, even alien natural and culture environment ... photographers and their clients did not seek out what was strange, wanting instead to reconcile difference.They shared the desire the desires for comfortable, palatable images of a landscape that in becoming domesticated was also becoming familiar---'possessed' in both literal and imaginative terms.

The picturesque, as expressed in photographs of rural properties where the worlds of nature and culture co-exist, was formalized in the view trade during the 1870s. The main task of photographers such as J.W. Beattie, Charles Bayliss, N.J. Caire, Charles Kerry, Henry King, Fred Kruger , J.W. Lindt, Charles Nettleton, Captain Samuel Sweet and Charles Walter was to define the unique and distinctive features of the Australian continent and Australian flora.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:28 PM |