During the opening of our new exhibition Wildlife Photographer of the Year we had the opportunity to welcome a special guest: Scott Portelli, an Australian photographer living in Sydney has already travelled the world extensively and took pictures in some of the most remote destinations like The Arctic, Antarctica, Galapagos, etc. He spent hundreds of days in pursuit of different wildlife. Due to his experience, he is privileged to be up close and personal with many creatures. Scott has already won multiple awards, this year he got selected by Wildlife Photographer of the year and his picture can be seen in the exhibition.
When I first came to the museum, people kept calling me a ‘salty sea dog’. I thought they meant it literally, as I sometimes fall in the harbour when I chase seagulls too enthusiastically – but no! A salty sea dog, it turns out, is someone who spends a lot of time on the water, not in it.
‘No tribute could be too high or too glowing for this great lover and promoter of art and photography in Australia.’— Max Dupain writing about Harold Cazneaux’s legacy in 19781.
If you weave your way through the imagery and beautiful photographs in Through a different lens – Cazneaux by the water, you’ll notice that 1937 was a big year for Australian photographer Harold Cazneaux: the culmination of a forty-year career that corresponded with the dawning of the Australian nation, and an emerging national consciousness.
Whatever pictures are made of our great Sydney today will in future years have some historical interest and value. As time marches on there will always be a ‘Sydney of yesterday’.
“Cock your hat.
An angle is an attitude”
– Frank Sinatra
Its hat week this week – for myself it’s an excuse to kit up for winter but among the vast collection of images by respected Australian commercial photographer Gervais Purcell the hats are generally more about form than function.
It is odd under here.
The warm, almost suffocated air inside the velvety fabric tent. Like hiding under the covers. The image- all upside down, back to front and obscured, unfocused in a gridded glass plate. It is a concept of the life in front of the lens. While I look through this camera, a passer by, enamoured with the display of vintage technology, stops to take a photograph of a photograph being taken.
We are outside the museum for an introduction to our Ansel Adams-inspired photography workshop, learning what it is like to work with large format analogue cameras like those Adams would have used. We’ve toured the beautiful images in the exhibition with ANMM curator Richard Wood and now it is time for our workshop with tutors Michael Waite and Benjamin Stone-Herbert from the Australian Centre for Photography.
Tiny slide frames are handed around. This is how we will learn to compose our shot. Michael suggests that even contemporary landscape artists and photographers may not have any better tool for thinking about a shot than a simple rectangular frame held up to the life around them. The perfect photo may just be found in deciphering the best way to frame the vast chaos and disordered collection of shapes in any given environment.
It is really a perfect day to be out on the harbour. Blazing sun cut by the cool breeze flapping in from the open doors and windows of our tiny ferry as it powers down the Parramatta River. Michael encourages us to concentrate on the journey. To not see the ferry as a barrier between us and the “out there” subject but as something that could frame our images. A scratched window, a red railing, a smear of reflection all adds to the scene. This idea is inspiring and releasing to almost all the participants and they head about keenly experimenting with compositions in, on and through the ferry towards the passing vistas.
There is no shortage of beautiful and fascinating subjects- Graffiti-ed pylons, churning water, dilapidated boats and sheds along the river, or even the other photographers.
And it is lucky we are focusing on the journey.
As we pull in towards our destination (the semi- submerged shipwrecks of homebush bay) we discover the water level is too low to go any further today. We have to be content with a long distance shot or risk being marooned on the banks of the river. But there has been so much to capture already no one seems to be worried. As Ansel Adams would say “every experience is a form of exploration” and today, it would seem, we have been explorers.
Ansel Adams – Photography from the Mountains to the Sea is being installed in the USA Gallery at the museum, it opens to the public on Thursday 4 July.
The vintage prints, from the hand of the photographer, explore his fascination with photographing water in nature, and developing techniques to capture the movement of waves, waterfalls and geysers previously hidden to the human eye. I especially like looking into the black parts of the photographs and seeing that they are actually full of very dark details. Continue reading
This is something I discovered recently during the process of registering part of the large collection of photographic negatives, taken by photographer Gervaise Purcell, and acquired by the Australian National Maritime Museum.
Five years ago today the Flickr Commons was launched. Since then, about 250,000 images from 56 different libraries, archives and museums have been uploaded, promoting the world’s photographic collections in all its splendour. I don’t think any of us envisioned the response it has elicited from audiences around the world. In particular, from a large group of elite photo investigators, people the National Library of Ireland refers to as the ‘Flickeroonies’ and who we often call the ‘super sleuths’. This group have invested hours upon hours of thorough research identifying people, places and key events, adding new meaning to the images on The Commons. To celebrate The Commons’ 5th birthday and, as a hats off to these contributors, The Library of Congress sent out a call for the most viewed, commented or favourited images on The Commons. We, and quite a number of other institutions, answered the call and the result was a fascinating array of snapshots from the past.Continue reading
In the 1890s, young photographer Samuel (Sam) John Hood developed an excellent strategy for a lucrative business in ship and crew portraits. He would hitch a ride on a tugboat to photograph sailing vessels ready to enter Sydney Harbour and, with his portfolio under his arm, would then board the ship and convince the captain to let him sell photographs to the crew – with the promise of a similar oil painting for the captain or a free portrait. With the captain’s assent, Hood’s bill for photographs was deducted from the crew’s wages, so they didn’t have to ‘pay’ a penny upfront.
He would then rush back to his city studio or his home studios in Balmain and, using a trick of the trade, paint the sails (based on the particular ship’s rigging plan) onto the photograph of the vessel, which he would then rephotograph and present to the crew as postcards. Apparently, few sailors saw though his retouching techniques (often also applied by skilled marine artists such as Walter Barratt, Reginald Arthur Borstel, George Frederick Gregory and John Allcot).
The turn of the 20th century marked the end of the sailing ship era and the growing dominance of steam vessels. This had implications for Hood’s business, as steamship crews were less inclined to request photographs of their vessels.
… By the 1920s, Hood had moved from ship postcards to the newspapers’ social and sport pages. With an excellent eye for everyday subjects, he was a leader in the early development of photojournalism.
The entire collection of the Samuel J Hood studio is enormous – of about 33,000 images, the museum holds more than 9,000, primarily related to maritime scenes. The industry around, and activity on, Sydney Harbour during the busy early to mid-20th century remained some of Hood’s favourite subjects. His iconic photograph of the troopship Queen Mary in 1940 (pictured) captures the drama of manoeuvring a large vessel on the harbour.
Curator, Environment, Industry and Shipping
An excerpt from 100 Stories from the Australian National Maritime Museum. Available as a free eBook for iPad from the iBookstore or hard copy versions available for purchase through our museum store.
Meet Myra Too. In 1951 this vessel dominated Sydney sailing news headlines, and for a time was unbeatable in the hotly challenged 18 footer sailing competitions in Sydney Harbour.
Designed and built by Sydney shipwright and sailing identity Billy Barnett, Myra Too entered the 18 footer racing scene and won the state, national and world championship in 1951. As a nation of sporting enthusiasts, Myra Too challenges our best athletes for sheer success. Sailing for the Sydney Flying Squadron, Myra Too beat back a number of strong New Zealand and interstate competitors to take the third of its trio of titles. Continue reading
In a sea of faces, some worried, some jubilant, Private John Michael Hassett poses for a picture. It is October 1916, Melbourne, and Hassett and other members of his battalion are just about to board the troopship Nestor to leave for war. Hassett kneels in the front row, his hat turned to the side and his kit bag rolled forward to expose his name and service number. Perhaps he intended his name to be recorded when posing for the camera – perhaps not – however this is exactly what happened.
Passengers peer through windows on the deck of the liner VENTURA and hang over the ship’s railings, completely engrossed in the scene in front of them. Some are still climbing ladders up the side of the vessel, while others wait in lifeboats below. Several hundred metres away a ship, their ship, RMS TAHITI is sinking before their very eyes – set to become a relic at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.It is 18 August 1930 and the passenger liner TAHITI, two days after its starboard propeller shaft first fractured and then smashed through the side of the hull, is finally succumbing to the irreparable damage. Continue reading