(England, Australia 1850 – 1897)
13.0 x 20.0 cm image/sheet
This photograph is from a series commissioned by the squatter E A Westby in the 1880s. It was taken in the old Pullitop Station shearing shed near Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, where at least 100 000 sheep were shorn annually. The well dressed man at the centre of the photograph is probably Westby, who owned the property until 1911, with his overseer and shed boss standing behind him. The photograph has occasionally been compared to Tom Roberts’s iconic image ‘Shearing the rams’ 1888–90. At a time when mechanical shearing was being introduced, both Bayliss and Roberts depicted traditional blade sheds with men at work. A smiling boy carrying a fleece appears in the lower left corner of both works.
Bayliss’s photograph has been called ‘a portrait of ownership’ rather than a record of shearing.1 Although the photograph clearly makes reference to social order (the owner and his staff, placed at the centre of a v-axis, are comparatively inactive), it would be simplistic to treat ‘Shearing shed’ simply as a text of ‘class-based seeing’. As in the stories of Henry Lawson and the poems of Banjo Paterson, it is the workers who are the principal subjects of this composition, as they go about their shearing, sort and lay out, pack into bales or just take ‘a breather’ by the window.
1.Turner B 1983, 'Hold on, have you ever shorn lambs?', 'GEO: Australia's geographical magazine', vol 5, no 1 p 73
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986. cat.no. 143
Sandra Byron, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Photography', pg. 125-135, Sydney, 1988, 132 (illus.).
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Australian Photography', pg. 198-207, Sydney, 1999, 201 (illus.).
Ewen McDonald, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'From Colonialism to late Modernism', pg. 7-106, Sydney, 1994, 19 (illus.).
Steven Miller, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'In every house, and in every tent', pg.33-51, Sydney, 2007, 35 (illus.), 47 (illus.).
Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 26 Sep 1986–23 Nov 1986
Shades of Light, National Gallery of Australia, Parkes, 1988–1988
Works from the Photography Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Feb 1989–15 May 1989
The photograph and Australia, 21 Mar 2015–08 Jun 2015