As we continued our stay with Daughter Number Two in Sydney, we spent the day walking around the city. Our intention was to visit the State Library as I had heard of an interesting photographic exhibition.
Our walk led us past old Parliament House and the historic Sydney Hospital.
As well as other places of architectural significance such as the Commonwealth Bank Building.
One must appreciate that Sydney was the first settlement in Australia with the First Fleet landing in Circular Quay in 1788. Sixty odd years later gold was discovered in “them there hills”. This
led to a building boom in what was to become the leading city of the vast area known as New South Wales. Similar events in Victoria led to Melbourne also being “build on gold”. So when I heard of an historically rich photographic exhibition featuring gold miners, their families and their lodgings I was intrigued.
These photographs are reproductions of the original glass plates featuring images of life in the goldfields of New South Wales and Victoria. These plates were found in a garden shed fifty years ago and only after much time and money, resurrected to their original forms. They are quite extraordinary.
For me the images are reminiscent of the Civil War images featuring the sombre visages of the prospectors. The clarity, however, is superb.
Also, what really intrigued me were the images of women and their children posing silently out in front of their rustic lodgings.
It would have been a harsh and unforgiving existence. The women bore numerous children who often did not survive disease nor the poor sanitation of the time. I love their long dark gowns, their stern expressions and their children’s wondrous looks.
My favourite image follows and it incorporates beautifully laid out garden of vegetables and flowers. I even think the owners of this little miner’s cottage look very pleased with themselves!
It was a wonderful end to a great weekend. I think how fortunate we are to live in our technology rich times but still do marvel at the ingenuity, the resourcefulness of that time. Incidentally, the Holtermann nugget, pictured below was not the great legacy left by this prospector. Instead, it was the commissioning of photographers Merlin and Baylis from the American and Australian Photographic Company which is our greatest treasure. These photographs chronicle an important time in our history – the discovery of gold and the harsh life this entailed. We are richer for these photographs.
In addition, I was very lucky to share these with my daughter and her husband – a photographic essayist in his own right.