The Powerhouse acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the ancestral homelands upon which our museums are situated. We respect their Elders, past, present and future and recognise their continuous connection to Country.
H9248-7 Photograph (1 of 62), stereograph, sepia toned, Watsons Bay, paper / albumen / silver / card, photographer unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1860-1870. Click to enlarge.

Stereograph of Watsons Bay

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 …


Object No.


Object Statement

Photograph (1 of 62), stereograph, sepia toned, Watsons Bay, paper / albumen / silver / card, photographer unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 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




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.

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


Stereograph of Watsons Bay 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 8 June 2023, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Stereograph of Watsons Bay |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=8 June 2023 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}