After its introduction in Australia in 1842, portrait photography was quickly adopted as a valuable means of recording history in the colony. It was considered to be a true-to-life copy of a person, providing a record for future generations. It presented the prosperity and social standing of the sitters, as well as recording life in the new land.
Amateur photographers could not easily make ambrotypes but they could make their own portraits on paper. Louisa How, the wife of Sydney merchant James How, is believed to have taken the photographs in an album of portraits of the couple’s friends and family taken at ‘Woodlands’, their home at Kirribilli Point in 1858–59. Despite the need to sit still for several minutes and have a support of some kind, How’s sitters appear more at ease than those in the stiff studio portraits of the day. William Landsborough was an explorer and is shown with Tiger, a young Aboriginal boy whom he had virtually adopted. The How album conveys the relaxed and assured life among the photographer’s circle in colonial Sydney.
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