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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.



Charles Bayliss

England, Australia

1850 - 1897


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


Other Title

Ngarrindjeri people, 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


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Charles Bayliss

Works in the collection


Shown in 8 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 10 publications


Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 41 (colour illus.).

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

Georgina Cole, Look, 'Australian photographs past and present: What they say about the people and the country', pg. 26-30, Sydney, Mar 2015, cover (colour illus.), 28.

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

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

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

Elizabeth Maloney, Look, 'Charles Bayliss', pg.39, Sydney, 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