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2009/104/5 Photograph albums (10) and travel brochure (1), containing photographic prints, postcards and ephemera relating to Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, paper / textile / metal / cardboard, various contributors, made by Margaret Preston, 1920s-1940s. Click to enlarge.

Margaret Preston travel photograph albums

The ten albums marked 'Snapshots' include images taken and collected by Australian artist, Margaret Rose Preston (1875-1963) who was born in Port Adelaide to David McPherson and Prudence Cleverdon McPherson, and spent most of her 20s and 30s in Europe studying and practising art. She married to William Preston in 1919 and died in Sydney in 1963.

Margaret Preston established her own aesthetic views through still-life paintings and wood block prints. She opened her interest on the beauty of …


Object No.


Object Statement

Photograph albums (10) and travel brochure (1), containing photographic prints, postcards and ephemera relating to Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, paper / textile / metal / cardboard, various contributors, made by Margaret Preston, 1920s-1940s

Physical Description

Ten albums, each containing approximately 100 black and white photographs and postcards that were taken and collected by Margaret and William Preston. The images show various landscape, architectural and ethnographic scenes relating to travel in Asia including Peking, Tokyo and Korea. All ten albums are alike in size and have cardboard covers printed with gold title panel "Snapshots". The pages of the albums are made of card and are stapled at the spine on the left-hand side and bound with a strip of cloth.

Based on the content of the photographs, it would appear that they were taken between the 1920s and the 1940s. The photographs are black and white silver gelatin prints. Some of these prints have been glued to the pages, as was the case with most photograph albums in this period, whilst other prints are attached with different kinds of photo corners, some in the shape of a ship's anchor.

Album number 1. 'Angkor Java'
Images include large format commercial photographs by professional photographer Kurkdjian who was active in Soerabaia (Surabaya).
Photographs were taken in Ankor and Borobudur (Java).

Album number 2. No inscription on cover
The subjects of images include commercial photographs and postcards, a photograph thought to be the photographer riding an elephant, a photograph of a white man wearing a suit and a hat standing next to ruins in Wat Prakeo (Bangkok), a black and white photograph with pencil inscription 'Mekong river Pnomp Penh 2nd Feb 1926' and 'map showing route of the Plancius Cruise'
Photographs were taken in Kampot, Pnom Penh, Ankor, Wat Prakeo (Bangkok)

Album number 3. 'Trip to the East. Five months'
The subjects of images include landscape and genre scenes.
Photographs were taken in Davao (the Philippines) Pakhoi (Peihai, China), postcards and bought photographs of Tonkin (Vietnam), Hanoi, photographs and postcards of Yynnam (China).

Album number 4. 'Second book, Five months in the East 2'
The subjects of images include landscape, temples, architectural views, streets, genre scenes and the female photographer photographed in a sedan chair.
Photographs were taken in Yunnam, Canton and Pekin (Beijing)

Album number 5. 'Third book of Travels in the East 6 months'
2 photographs missing.
Images include landscape, temples and the female photographer in a sedan chair returning from the Great Wall,
Photographs were taken in Peking, the Great Wall, Ming tombs, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Coal Hill.

Album number 6. '4th Book of Travels in the East. Six months'
Images include Japanese postcards and photographs with Japanese captions.
Photographs were taken at The Great Wall in Shan-Hai Kuan (Shanhaiguan).

Album number 7. 'Fifth book Eastern Trip 5'
Images include temples, tombs, sculptures, people in mud bath, hotsprings and sand bath, hot spring hotel, commercial photographs and postcards of Ainu people, volcano, commercial photographs of Matusima, city views, falls and lake.
Photographs were taken in Beppu, Miyajima, Kyoto, Sapporo, Tokyo, Nara, Hokkaido, Noboribetsu, Matusima, Asamushi, Nikko, Kegon falls and Lake Chieuryi (Lake Ch?zenji).

Album number 8. '4th book Eastern Trip'
Last 2 pages are blank.
Images include mixture of her photographs, postcards and commercial photographs, depicting tombs, an observatory, street scenes, palaces, pagoda, the photographer on a sleigh chair on the way to Uchi Kongi (Mountain Kongi), a photograph of 2 women crossing a bridge on a chasm in Diamond Mountain. Postcards of Shimonoseki (port), postcards of Mountain Aso erupting, photographs of the photographer feeding birds in Beppu.
Photographs were taken in Mukden, Peiling (Beiling), Pekin (Beijing), Keijo (Seoul), Diamond Mountain (North Korea), Mokyo Dai (inner kongo), Chosen (Korea), Shimonoseki (port), Nagasaki, Unyen (Unzen volcano), Mountain Aso and Beppu.

Album number 9. 'Travels in the East 7th Book'
6 photographs missing.
Images include a mixture of a brochure 'How to see Takamatsu', postcards and commercial photographs of landscape, street scenes, waterfall, pilgrims, Panrokwan hotel in Kofu and the big bell in Nara.
Photographs were taken in Yokohama, Hokone, Inoshima, Kamakura, Mountain Fuji, Siraito Taki waterfall (Mt Fuji district), Mitake, Kofu, Tatamatesu and Takatasmatsu (both Takamatsu), Shiokku (Shikoku in Yashima), Yashima, Manilla (the Philippines) Manchurian gate and Nara.

Album number 10. 'Fêtes ete Trip to the East'
6 postcards missing.
Images include postcards of a Norman Japanese battle Yashima 1066, puppets from Osaka show, the 47 Ronin of Japan, Gion festival of Kyoto, Spinners fate festival in Sendai, festival of the weaver (some of the photographs are in colour and black and white), postcards paintings of genre scenes of Annam, postcards of Shimonoseki and a photograph of captain of the Atsuta man reciting Marc Anthony's speech.

Travel brochure, containing 12 pages of travel information relating to city of Takamatsu, Japan. It was printed in August 1934 by Takamatsu City Office Japan Tourist Bureau. It was collected by Margaret and William Preston while their trip to Japan in the mid 1930s.


10 albums are differently marked with hand-written inscription on their covers.
Album number 1: 'Angkor Java'
Album number 2: No inscription on its cover
Album number 3:'Trip to the East. Five months I'
Album number 4: 'Second book, Five months in the East 2'
Album number 5: 'Third book of Travels in the East 6 months'
Album number 6: '4th Book of Travels in the East. Six months'
Album number 7: 'Fifth book Eastern Trip 5'
Album number 8: '4th book Eastern Trip'
Album number 9: 'Travels in the East 7th Book'
Album number 10: 'Fêtes ete Trip to the East'



205 mm


305 mm


8 mm



The silver gelatin process is the photographic process used with currently available black and white films and printing papers. The term originally came from black and white film, which is made with tiny platelets of silver called silver-halide gelatin. They were the dominant print medium until the 1960s, when colour photography took over, and are still in use. More contemporary prints can be reliably distinguished from other photographic media only under microscopic examination.

Intense research in the last 125 years has lead to current materials that exhibit low grain and high sensitivity to light. The first silver gelatin process was introduced by R. L. Maddox in 1871 with subsequent considerable improvements in sensitivity obtained by Charles Harper Bennet in 1878.

A suspension of silver salts in gelatin is coated onto acetate film, fibre-based or resin coated paper and allowed to dry. These materials remain stable for months and years. When small crystals (called grains) of silver salts such as silver bromide and silver chloride are exposed to light, a few atoms of free metallic silver are liberated. These free silver atoms form the latent image. This latent image is relatively stable and will persist for some months without degradation provided the film is kept dark and cool. Films are developed using solutions that reduce the free silver atoms. An 'amplification' of the latent image occurs as the silver salts near the free silver atom are also reduced to metallic silver. The strength, temperature and time for which the developer is allowed to act allow the photographer to control the contrast of the final image. The development is then stopped by neutralising the developer in a second bath. Once development is complete, the undeveloped silver salts must be removed by fixing in sodium thiosulphate or ammonium thiosulphate, and then the film or paper must be washed in clean water. The final image consists of metallic silver embedded in the gelatin coating.

The silver gelatin dry plate process, http://www.alternativephotography.com/process_dryplate.html



The ten photographic albums were transferred to the Museum from Sydney University together with the collections of photographs by Vargassoff and Captain Koester.

The relationship between the three collections is not known. It is unclear how the various albums and photographs came to be lodged at Sydney University. It is thought that they may have been deposited in the Oriental Studies Department at Sydney University with Mrs Militza Colan after Serge Vargassoff's death in 1965. Mrs Colan, a friend of Vargassoff's family and also a white Russian, was secretary to Professor A. R. Davis (died 1996) in the Oriental Studies Department.

The albums remained undisturbed in a cupboard in the School of Asian Studies for many years until they were transferred to Powerhouse Museum in 2009.


Credit Line

Transferred from the School of Asian Studies University of Sydney, 2009

Acquisition Date

9 December 2009

Cite this Object


Margaret Preston travel photograph albums 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 14 May 2021, <https://ma.as/371689>


{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/371689 |title=Margaret Preston travel photograph albums |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=14 May 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}