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
Location
Not on display
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

Year
1886
Media
Photograph
Medium
albumen photograph
Dimensions
23.6 x 29.5 cm image/sheet
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Credit
Purchased 1984
Accession number
74.1984.36
Copyright
Unable to display image due to cultural restrictions