Germany 1845 – , Australia 1926
Family group, Ulmarra tribe, Clarence River NSW
New South Wales, Australia
Creation Notes: printed 1890s
Materials & Technique: photographs, gelatin silver photograph
In 1862 J.W. Lindt, the son of a customs agent in Frankfurt, worked his passage from Germany to Australia. He spent a year as an itinerant piano tuner and repairer before settling amongst the German community at Grafton in New South Wales, where he became a professional photographer. In 1869, Lindt took over a studio; he was well educated and enterprising and the company flourished. While in Grafton, he published several series of Australian subjects destined for the national and overseas market, one of which was made between 1873–74 in the form of a portfolio of a dozen portraits of ‘typical’ Australian Aboriginal people. That portfolio won a gold medal at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, alongside panoramas of Australian scenery organised by his countryman Bernard Holtermann. For his portraits, Lindt asked local Aboriginal people to come to his studio and pose amongst props he had gathered from various sources. The portfolios, which had different combinations from a stock of about 50 images, became the most widely distributed images of Aboriginal people in the 19th century.
Lindt relocated to Melbourne in 1876, running a very successful business as a photographer until his retirement. From the 1880s, he also became known as a collector of Australian and Pacific Island artefacts. In the late 1890s, Lindt produced a number of enlarged prints, with softened details, of his Grafton Aboriginal subjects which appear to have been directed at the rising art photography market. Throughout his career, Lindt shared the view of his contemporaries that Indigenous peoples worldwide were ‘dying races’. In this attitude he was incorrect and eventually Indigenous Australian photographers in the 1980s would present their own counter-images of Indigenous people.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002