Charles Nettleton was a professional photographer born in the north of England who arrived in Australia in 1854, settling in Melbourne. He joined the studio of Townsend Duryea and Alexander McDonald, where he specialised in outdoor photography. Nettleton is credited with having photographed the first Australian steam train when the private Melbourne-Sandridge (Port Melbourne) line was opened on 12 September 1854. Nettleton established his own studio in 1858, offering the first souvenir albums to the Melbourne public. He worked as an official photographer to the Victorian government and the City of Melbourne Corporation from the late 1850s to the late 1890s, documenting Melbourne’s growth from a colonial town to a booming metropolis. He photographed public buildings, sewerage and water systems, bridges, viaducts, roads, wharves, and the construction of the Botanical Gardens. In 1861 he boarded the ‘Great Britain’ to photograph the first English cricket team to visit Australia and in 1867 was appointed official photographer of the Victorian visit of the Duke of Edinburgh. For the Victorian police he photographed the bushranger Ned Kelly in 1880. This is considered to be the only genuine photograph of the outlaw.
Research suggests that this Charles Nettleton Carte de Visite of Bourke Street, Melbourne 1867-74, depicts a similar area and scene to that of Tom Robert’s 1886 painting 'Allegro Con Brio, Bourke Street' in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. This information is corroborated by the presence of John Danks’ business signage in both images which existed at the same address on Bourke Street for over a century.
A carte de visite is a stiff card of about 10 x 6.4 cm, with an attached paper photograph, invented in 1854 by André-Adolphe-Eugène Disderi. They were introduced into Australia in 1859 by William Blackwood with albums arriving in 1860, aiding the collection and distribution of multiple cartes. Cartes were usually portraits and were made by the millions worldwide. Multi-lens, or ‘multiplying’ cameras were introduced in the 1860s, which were capable of producing from 2 to 32 images in quick succession, dramatically increasing the number of cartes de visite that could be made from a single photographic plate. They were easily reproduced by making paper contact prints from the glass plates, which were then cut and pasted to card.
carte de visite
6.2 x 9.1 cm image; 6.3 x 10.0 cm mount card
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
Shown in 1 exhibition
Referenced in 1 publication
Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 251 (colour illus.).