Glencoe, Long Island, New York, United States of America 1823 – Riverina, New South Wales, Australia 1888
Noarlunga, Horse Shoe Bend, Onkaparinga Creek, South Australia
1865-67 c. Description: from Untitled album (p. 56)
Collection Title: from an album compiled by Robert Monckton
Place made: Noarlunga, South Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: photographs, albumen prints, albumen silver photograph
This rather eerie view comes from an album of photographs assembled in the late 1860s by Englishman Robert Monkton (1831–1901) from his travels in Australia and New Zealand. It shows the St Philip and St James Anglican Church on the ridge above Horse Shoe Bend on Onkaparinga Creek, some 35 kilometres south of Adelaide. Despite the emptiness in the photograph, Onkaparinga was a busy town, being the inland loading-point and a main stop on the way to the shipping port on the coast.
The photographer is unknown, but the size and quality of the print point to a skilled professional from Adelaide. In the 1850s and 1860s there were no ‘snapshots’; photographers had to coat and prepare their glass negatives and then fix them on the spot. Exposures needed to be long; any moving figures or flowing water became blurred. The plates were also insensitive to blue, so detail in the sky was lost (clouds could be drawn in or another negative exposed just for the clouds). 19th-century viewers were delighted by these scenic photographs, as witnesses to the progress of the colonies as much as any aesthetic appreciation of the Australian landscape. Over a century later, the minute details and character of this print give it its own aesthetic power.
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