Untitled (Aboriginal man holding club)
J W Lindt
1845 - 1926
‘My motto as a photographic portraitist has always been “Truth – but truth in a pleasant form” … I have always paid the greatest attention to the production of negatives as nearly as possible perfect in expression, lighting and pose.’ J W Lindt wrote 1888 1
Lindt’s little book, ‘Notes on modern photography’ 1888, lists his awards, specialities (Australian views, scenery and life in New Guinea) and his catalogue which included: ‘Aboriginal photographs: About 36 different subjects … also a set of six subjects … taken expressly for Museums, Libraries and Picture Galleries … Sets of these photographs have been supplied to many of the scientific Institutions of Europe and the Colonies.’ The standard size, of which this is one, sold for two shillings and sixpence if purchased individually.
The posing of the subject in a studio with a painted landscape backdrop, plants, rocks and artefacts is studied. It has been concluded that the foliage is local suggesting that Lindt was at pains to present an ‘authentic’ picture of the Indigenous people.2 These photographs were much admired at the time, were widely circulated in Australia and internationally, and were seen to represent ‘the shadows of an unfortunate race whose substance is fast passing away’.3 More recent readings of these images emphasise the individuality of the subjects and their often direct gaze into the camera, arguing that the poses are not always subservient, despite the effect of looking through the picture plane at a museum diorama.4 This particular photograph by Lindt is typical. The unknown man, firmly holding a club, sits on rocks with a shield and boomerang at his feet. His gaze is direct and expression sombre.
1. Lindt J W 1888, ‘Notes on modern photography’, M’Carron, Bird & Co, Melbourne p 5
2. Orchard K 1999, ‘J W Lindt’s Australian Aboriginals (1873–74)’, ‘History of Photography’, vol 23, no 2 spring pp 163–69
3. 1874, quote from 'Town and Country Journal' in Orchard K ibid p 167
4. Orchard K op cit
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
17.3 x 13.1 cm image/sheet; 18.0 x 14.0 cm card
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
Unable to display image due to cultural restrictions
Shown in 4 exhibitions
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
Works from the Photography Collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Feb 1989–15 May 1989
Portraits of Oceania, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 Aug 1997–26 Oct 1997
Referenced in 6 publications
Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'The photograph and portraiture', pg.15-31, Sydney, 2007, 24 (illus.).
Judy Annear, Portraits of Oceania, Sydney, 1997. cat.no. 85
Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986. cat.no. 164
Sandra Byron, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Photography', pg. 125-135, Sydney, 1988, 132, 133 (illus.).
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Australian Collection: Australian Photography', pg. 198-207, Sydney, 1999, 199 (illus.).
Josef Lebovic Gallery, Images of the Australian Aboriginal People, As Seen by Europeans, Sydney, 1984. cat.no. 135