This photograph of the old Post Office in George Street was published in one of the later sets of William Hetzer's stereoviews. The long exposure time could however suggest an earlier date. It is also possible that the photograph was taken by a different photographer, or was even possibly a deliberate ploy by Hetzer to emphasis its instantaneous nature.
The photograph was taken early in the morning, as we can see awnings are still being erected along George Street. On the steps of the Post Office groups of people have gathered, presumably to get some shade from the sun. A few doors up form the Post Office, at 392 George St, was the premises of the most respected, and long lasting photographic establishments, in Australia, Freeman Brothers. Just below the Post Office (and on the left of this photograph) were the business premises of William Harbottle, Oilman, at 382 George St.
In 1850 William Hetzer arrived in Sydney, with his wife Thekla, where they immediately set up a photographic studio at 15 Hunter Street. Hetzer initially specisalised in calotypes but soon adopted the new collodion based positive/negative processes, like the ambrotype and albumen prints, which were appearing in the early 1850s.
In 1858 Hetzer embarked on what is now his best known enterprise, the publication of a set of 36 albumen prints taken with a stereo-view camera. The success of the first series encouraged Hetzer to keep publishing Sydney views and by 1859 he had over a 60 different views. Hetzer's views of Sydney - "... its harbour, principal buildings, streets and neighbouring scenery, &c." were among the earliest outdoor photographs taken in Sydney. The sets sold well and Hetzer continued to publish sets of stereo-views of Sydney and its harbour, right up until 1863.
In 1867, Hetzer left Australia and returned to England, auctioning off his photographic equipment, and about 3500 registered negatives, to the photographer Joseph Degotardi.
For more information please see attached Powerhouse Museum Theme, 'Early Photographs of Sydney by William Hetzer.'
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, October 2008