The 1886 Australian Photographic Journal

Cover detail of the Australian Photographic Journal

Cover detail of the Australian Photographic Journal, copy from original etching, The Australian Photographic Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1886, State Library of New South Wales

Fifty years after the introduction of photography Australia was still absorbing the impact of this new medium. Portraiture remained the main-stay of most commercial photographers but there were many Australians beginning to pursue their own interests in photography.

The 1880s saw the introduction of mass-produced dry gelatine plates which made photography,  "...so easy to acquire, that it presents to the amateur innumerable advantages. Fitted out with a good camera and lens, he is able to make a complete photographic record of any interesting pleasure trip or journey." [1]

It is therefore no surprise to find the retailers of photographic materials, like Bray and Lichtner, expressing a hope that new markets might be found in the rising number of amateurs. This Sydney firm boasted of holding,  "… the largest warehouse of photographic stock in the colonies."[2] Given the growing numbers of photographers in the colonies it seemed good business to start a journal which explained some of the intricacies of photography, and advertised the latest developments.

In January 1886, the first volume of their new enterprise, the 'Australian Photographic Journal', was published. Edited by Emanuel Lichtner and coming out monthly, it was essentially a technical journal for photographers.[3] Almost all the short essays found in the journal describe the many technical details needed to create the perfect image. A few examples from the many topics include: how to use slow gelatine plates for outdoor work; chemical recipes for printing on albumised paper; and washing negatives.

Botanical Gardens Sydney, 1886

Botanical Gardens Sydney, 1886, Alfred Allen, copy from original albumen print, The Australian Photographic Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1886, State Library of New South Wales

Most editions also included a supplement. The supplement was usually an example of a photographer or photographic printer's art. While most of these were highly finished collotypes/autotypes the April 1886 edition contained an albumen print taken by Alfred Allen in the Botanical Gardens, Sydney. In the journal the technical details of the picture (see above) are described in minute detail.

The plate was a “Bakers Instantaneous,” and developed with Thomas’s pyro developer. It was taken with a Dallmeyer wide angle landscape, No. 1 patent, about 4 pm. The third stop was used, and an exposure of 5 seconds given.[4]     

Perhaps this degree of specialisation limited the audience for the journal as unfortunately the enterprise  appears to have only lasted for a year before disappearing. For historians of photography however it provides a unique and detailed insight into the state of photography in Australia at this moment of technological change.  The State Library of New South Wales hold all the 1886 volumes [Vol. 1, no. 2 (Feb. 1886)-v. 1, no. 9 (Sept. 1886)] in its collections .

Author
Geoff Barker, Curator, Research and Discovery, State Library of New South Wales, 2017

Footnotes
[1] F. C. Beach, Some of the advantages of Amateur Photography, The Australian Photographic Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1886
[2] Advertisement, The Australian Photographic Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1886
[3] Australische Zeitung (Adelaide, SA : 1875 - 1916), Wed 16 Dec 1885, page 2, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/229165674
[4] Our Picture, The Australian Photographic Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1886

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