We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.

Title

Untitled

1883-1885

Artist

  • Details

    Date
    1883-1885
    Media category
    Photograph
    Materials used
    carte de visite
    Dimensions
    8.7 x 5.1 cm image; 9.5 x 5.6 cm sheet; 10.4 x 6.2 cm mount card
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Credit
    Gift of Geoffrey Batchen 2015
    Location
    Not on display
    Accession number
    417.2015
    Copyright

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Cazneau & Connolly studio

    Works in the collection

    2

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  • About

    This portrait from the New Zealand studio of Cazneau & Connolly of an unknown woman against a painted backdrop is an exceptional example of a carte de visite. A photographic calling-card, cartes de visite were widely circulated from 1860 to the 1890s and marked a decisive turn in the development of the medium. Cheaper to operate and capable of multiple reproductions, carte de visite technology allowed more people to engage with the medium. While they were later superseded by the larger cabinet card, cartes de visite were incredibly popular and produced by the millions world-wide. Distributed amongst social acquaintances, cartes de visite were often kept in personal albums.

    The woman in this portrait stands next to a short column and in front of a painted backdrop that dives the illusion of a landscape scene. Her pose, with one hand resting on the top of the column and with her body at an oblique angle to the camera, is near identical to those found in countless other carte de visite portraits. As the practice of commercial photography accelerated, with itinerant photographers circulating across the country, and more people had their photographs taken, the way figures were presented to the camera assumed a uniformity. A set of stock poses emerged that were replicated endlessly, regardless of geographic location. The way composition and posture are echoed across disparate photographs is a forceful demonstration of how the photographic medium began to infiltrate everyday life during the nineteenth century.

    The studio of Cazneau & Connolly who produced this carte constituted an important link between Australian and New Zealand photographic practice. Pierce Mott Cazneau, co-founder of the studio alongside James Bennett Connolly, was the father of eminent Australian Pictorialist photographer Harold Cazneaux (who added the ‘x’ to his family’s French name as an adult) and practised commercial photography in both New Zealand and Australia.

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