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H5572-2 Ambrotype (1 of 4), tinted and mounted in embossed case, studio portrait of George Walker, collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / brass / velvet / leather, maker unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1855-1865. Click to enlarge.

Ambrotype of George Walker, ex-Mayor of Paddington

Made in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1855-1865.

This photograph is significant because it is one of the few surviving ambrotypes with links to Sydney, Australia. While millions of these ambrotype photographs were produced around the world and many thousands in Australia remarkably few have survived that can be linked to Australian society during the 1850s. It is even rarer to find portraits like this one where the sitter, George Walker is not only identified but also played a prominent role in the culture of the period.

Geoff Barker, Curato...

Summary

Object No.

H5572-2

Object Statement

Ambrotype (1 of 4), tinted and mounted in embossed case, studio portrait of George Walker, collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / brass / velvet / leather, maker unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1855-1865

Physical Description

An ambrotype showing a 3/4 length portrait of a young man photographed seated in a studio setting. The man wears a three piece suit and tie. He rests his right arm on the back of the chair he is seated on and sits with the left side of the his body angled towards the camera. The ambrotype is enclosed in a hinged case made from wood that has been covered in leather. The case opens to reveal the ambrotype on the right hand side. The ambrotype is framed in an oval brass mat that has been stamped with a decorative pattern. A glass panel sits over the top of the brass mat. The opposite side of the case is lined with blue velvet that has been embossed with a decorative foliate pattern. On the outside of the case, the leather has been embossed with a decorative floral design which is surrounded by a rectangular, gold, border. Two metal hooks on the side of the case allow it to be closed securely.

Dimensions

Width

195 mm

Depth

10 mm

Production

Notes

In 1851 Frederick Scott Archer announced the discovery of a new photographic process that could adhere to glass. This was a major breakthrough in the story of photography for the process made clear highly detailed negatives form which multiple copies could be made.

The general public had become used to their photographic portraits being taken using a daguerreotype process which were displayed in a small glass fronted case. To compete with this trade a special kind of collodion process, known as the ambrotype was introduced. This was essentially the same as other collodion negatives except that once the exposure had been taken the emulsion on the glass was bleached to whiten it. When this bleached negative was placed in a case against a black background it formed a positive image which bore a remarkable resemblance to the daguerreotype except it had the added advantage of not being highly reflective.

Australia followed rather than set photographic trends but in the 1850s, the massive boom caused by the discovery of gold ensured it was very quick to take up new processes like the ambrotype. Over the 1850s the ambrotype replaced the daguerreotype as the preferred method of taking portraits but even in the late 1850s daguerreotypes were still being made for more conservative customers.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, September 2009

References
J. Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia, Third Edition, Institute of Australian Photography, Hong Kong, 1979
Michel Frizot, A New History of Photography, Amilcare Pizzi, Milan, 1998
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, A Concise History of Photography, Thames and Hudson, Germany, 1965
A. Davies and P. Stanbury, 1985, The Mechanical Eye in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne

History

Notes

According to the stock book entry and object file this is an image of Geo Walker, ex Mayor of Paddington.

Cite this Object

Harvard

Ambrotype of George Walker, ex-Mayor of Paddington 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 8 December 2019, <https://ma.as/243697>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/243697 |title=Ambrotype of George Walker, ex-Mayor of Paddington |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=8 December 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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