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Australia 1860 – 1937

'The Rocks' area 1901 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, albums, gelatin silver photographs, album sheets Support: bound in original green cloth boards, spine lettered in gilt, the album housed in a quarter red morocco fleece-lined solander box

Edition Notes: Research by Douglas Stewart Fine Books: A photographic record of The Rocks area around the time of Federation. It is likely that the entire archive dates to the Spring of 1901, as two of the photographs are dated August and September of that year. The photographs were not intended for commercial use: they were commissioned by the Department of Public Works in order to document the streetscapes in the area prior to a program of demolition which followed the outbreak of bubonic plague in The Rocks in 1900. The images highlight the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions which were believed to have contributed to the severity of the outbreak, during which large sections of The Rocks had been quarantined. Following the outbreak, local residents were charged with the tasks of cleansing, disinfecting or the burning of infected areas, and the mass demolition of certain precincts which were deemed to be slums was carried out. The present archive therefore represents a precious visual record of the oldest area of European settlement in Australia as it was before its character and appearance were suddenly and dramatically altered through government intervention. The State Library of New South Wales holds in its collection a group of six photograph albums, known as The Plague Albums, which contain a total of 379 of Degotardi's photographs (PXE 90 - PXE 95: Photographic albums of the plague in The Rocks, Sydney, 1900 / under the supervision of Mr George McCredie ; [photographed by John Degotardi Jr.]). New South Wales State Records holds 52 of Degotardi's photographs (NRS 12487, Photographs taken during cleansing operations in quarantine areas, Sydney). We can trace no other album or substantial group of Degotardi's plague photographs in Australian collections. A presentation album, virtually identical in format to the present example, containing 118 silver gelatin prints and prepared for The Hon. E.W. O'Sullivan, Minister for Public Works, was sold at Christie's, London in 1999 (Fine and Rare Photographs, sale 8373, 7 May 1999, lot 208 : £6,900).
Dimensions: sheets 21.5 h x 28.5 w cm album 28.0 h x 37.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2016
Accession No: NGA 2016.38.1-116
  • purchased 2015