One of the problems with many collections of old photographs and negatives is that they are too often disconnected from their history and provenance. Sometimes that doesn’t really matter. If the subject matter is mostly generic then the images may stand on their own. But some collections cry out for more explanation.
I recently bought a small collection of 35 glass plate negatives from a seller in Melbourne. My main reason for buying was the presence in the collection of five plates depicting some of the decorative arches erected in Melbourne at the time of the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York for the opening of the first Australian Commonwealth Parliament in 1901.
When the collection arrived I noted a couple of portraits of a Great War soldier – an officer, I think – an image of Ballarat, Victoria and one of some scenery on The Great Ocean Road. The rest were family shots – a category of image I rarely find particularly noteworthy. Except in this case most of the photographs were really quite exceptional, and I found myself wishing I knew more about the photographer and the family.
Some of the portraits and family shots are exceptionally fine, displaying a real mastery of equipment and technique that must have taken a great deal of practice to attain. Was the photographer a talented amateur or a professional?
It’s probably a forlorn hope, but I really would like to know who took these lovely photos. Perhaps this modest blog post will some day find its way to somebody who knows the answer.