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Charles Bayliss

(England, Australia 1850 – 1897)

Group of local Aboriginal people, Chowilla Station, Lower Murray River, South Australia, from the album New South Wales Royal Commission: Conservation of water. Views of scenery on the Darling and Lower Murray during the flood of 1886.
Other titles:
Group of Blacks, Chowilla Station, Lower Murray River, South Australia
Media category
Materials used
albumen photograph

23.6 x 29.5 cm image/sheet

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased 1984
Accession number
Unable to display image due to cultural restrictions
Major exhibition gallery
Further information

Throughout the 19th century there was a prevalent view among the white population of Australia that it was only a question of time before the last Indigenous Australians disappeared from the mainland. In response to this, and as a reflection of more general interests in ethnography current at the time, photographers frequently represented Aboriginal subjects. Their images usually took the form of tableaux or more consciously ethnographic studies, with subjects unadorned or naked, as ethnographers had advised.

Bayliss here re-creates a ‘native fishing scene’ tableau, reminiscent of a museum diorama, using some carefully staged Ngarrindjeri people. The Canadian writer Gilbert Parker, who travelled with Bayliss, recalled the event:
The photographer had nothing to suggest when it came to posing. The old men drew blankets round their shoulders, William arrayed himself in garments, that they should not be thought out of the fashion when posterity should gaze upon their counterfeit presentment; and without a word of suggestion these natives arranged themselves in a group, the grace and unique character of which a skilful artist only could show. And William with spear in hand upon a log, and with eyes upon an imaginary fish, said: ‘his fellow blackfellow all right.’1

1. Parker G 1892, 'Round the compass in Australia', Hutchinson, London pp 28-29

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

Bibliography (8)

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986. 144

Robyn Donohue, Arcadia - nineteenth century Australian photography, North Sydney, 1998. no catalogue numbers

Robyn Donohue, Look, 'Arcadia: Nineteenth Century Australian Photography', pg. 22-23, Heidelberg, Oct 1998, 22.

Josef Lebovic Gallery, Colonial Photographers, Sydney, 1984. 116

Elizabeth Maloney, Look, 'Charles Bayliss', pg.39, Newtown, Mar 2008, 39 (illus.).

Robert McFarlane, Critic's Choice, Sydney, 1994, 4 (illus.), 8. no catalogue numbers

Steven Miller, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'In every house, and in every tent', pg.33-51, Sydney, 2007, 49 (illus.).

Anne-Marie Willis, Picturing Australia - A History of Photography, Sydney, 1988, 94. 56

Exhibition history (7)

Colonial Photographers, Josef Lebovic Gallery, Kensington, 24 Mar 1984–28 Apr 1984

Ten years on, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Jan 1986–Jan 1986

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

Critic's Choice, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 22 Apr 1994–10 Jul 1994

Arcadia: nineteenth century Australian photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Oct 1998–13 Dec 1998

A modern vision: Charles Bayliss photographer 1850-1897, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 11 Jul 2008–26 Oct 2008

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