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H9248-7 Photographic print (stereoscopic), exterior view, Watsons Bay, paper / albumen / silver, mounted on yellow card, publisher unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, 1860-1870. Click to enlarge.

Watsons Bay

Made
  • 1860-1870
In this rare 1860s photograph we can see displays from one of Australia's earliest zoological gardens. This was set up by Joseph Waller and William Beaumont at the Sir Joseph Banks Hotel in Botany in 1851. Later in the 1860s they opened more displays at Watson's Bay and it is one of these that has attracted the crowd of women we can see around it.

In the early 1850s technical developments and stereo photography combined to revolutionise photographs. During this period clear glass collodion negatives began to replace hazy paper ones and pushed the negative/positive process into the limelight. Glass negatives made it possible to produce multiple positive prints from one highly detailed negative, a massive improvement on the previously popular daguerreotype which was a one-off process. Not only were these new positive prints less likely to fade, but the time needed to take a photo had also decreased making it possible to count exposure time in seconds rather than minutes, increasing the number of things photographers could potentially capture with their cameras. These technical developments coincided with a craze for stereo photography that swept the Western world in the wake of the Great Exhibition held in London in 1851.

From the 1850s right through to the 1870s mounted stereoscopic photographs were immensely popular. It is estimated that millions were made in this period and were so popular they could be hired from shops for evening viewings and circulated the globe as gifts. There was a small lull in their popularity in the 1880s and 1890s but in the early 1900s large companies, like Underwood and Underwood and H. C. White, again began producing silver gelatin and lithographed stereoscopic images on a huge scale right through to the 1920s.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, August 2009.

References
Ann Moyal, Koala, CSIRO publishing, 2008
William Darrah, 'The World of Stereographs', W. Darrah, 1997
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, 'The History of Photography', Thames and Hudson, 1955

(Additional remarks added by curator Des Barrett on 13/2/2013, after receiving the following information from Helen Waller on 10/2/1013. Hard copies of the documents have been placed in the Blue file for H9248-7).

"During the 1850's, William Beaumont and James Waller [not Joseph Waller, as it appears in the second line] were the proprietors of the 'Sir Joseph Banks Hotel' at Botany. It was a very popular venue for wedding parties and Sunday picnics and the colony's first zoo was established by William and James on the property adjoining the Hotel. They made further improvements and the Sydney Herald of 11th December, 1850, described the hotel garden as the most extensive in the vicinity of Sydney.

Plans were well underway for a conservatory and ball room. A riding school was established offering a course of four lessons for one guinea. At the end of a jetty, there was a bathing house with costumes for hire. Boats were also available. A.B. Spark's diary, 21st April 1851, records that he "rowed as far as Bowman's and Weller's [sic] Inn where we were entertained by the sight of a variety of beats and birds and a numerous assemblage of people amusing themselves, with a Punch and Judy to crown it all".

Crowds flocked to the hotel and it was estimated 5000 people visited the grounds on Boxing Day 1852".

This object is part of

Summary

Object No.

H9248-7

Object Statement

Photographic print (stereoscopic), exterior view, Watsons Bay, paper / albumen / silver, mounted on yellow card, publisher unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, 1860-1870

Physical Description

Photographic print (stereoscopic), exterior view, Watsons Bay, paper / albumen / silver, mounted on yellow card, publisher unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, 1860-1870

Production

Made

  • 1860-1870

Notes

In this view taken at Watsons bay sometime in the early 1860s we can see a group of woman and children gathered around what looks to be some kind of display, perhaps zoological.

A stereo photograph is comprising two photographs, one taken as the left eye sees the view and another slightly offset as the right eye would see a view. These photographs are mounted on a card which is then fitted into a viewer. The viewer allows the brain to superimpose the two images, imitating the three dimensional stereovision of the human eye.

Stereo photographs are essentially the combination of two inventions of the 1830s. Sir Charles Wheatstone announced the first of these in 1838; it was an optical viewer that could combine two specially developed three-dimensional drawings that took into account the slight variation between the right and the left eye. The second occurred in 1839 when two different photographic processes, the 'daguerreotype' by Louis Daguerre and the 'Talbotype' or 'Calotype' by Henry Fox Talbot, were announced to the world.

In the 1840s Sir Charles Wheatstone began experimenting with Talbot's process which enabled him to place two slightly offset photographic images in his viewer. The success of these experiments inspired a Scotsman, Sir David Brewster, to announce in 1849 his modification of the stereo format, a portable viewing device called a lenticular stereoscope. It was Brewster's stereoscope which defined the standard for the new format and which was popularised from the early 1850s.

Geoff Barker, August 2009.

References
William Darrah, 'The World of Stereographs', W. Darrah, 1997
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, 'The History of Photography', Thames and Hudson, 1955, 253

Cite this Object

Harvard

Watsons Bay 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 2 March 2021, <https://ma.as/256019>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/256019 |title=Watsons Bay |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=2 March 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}