PAINE, John (1833-1908)
Aboriginal women and children on a riverbank, New South Wales, late 1870s.
Albumen print photograph, carte de visite format, 64 x 105 mm (mount), verso wet stamped ‘J. Paine Photo. Sydney’; both the albumen print and mount are in fine condition.
English-born photographer John Paine established a photographic studio in the Sydney suburb of Waterloo in 1875, having previously lived and worked in the New England region of New South Wales. In 1879 he exhibited at the Sydney International Exhibition, where he won a silver medal.
The precise location of this carefully composed group portrait of two women, six children and their shaggy-haired dog (which appears to have just been for a swim) is unknown. However, the weeping willows in the background might provide a clue. These plants were introduced along the banks of the Murray River in the 1860s, primarily for the purpose of aiding paddle-steamer navigation by marking the main channels, but also to prevent erosion of the banks, which had already begun to occur due to the clearing of riverside and catchment vegetation. (Today these introduced deciduous trees, which have replaced large numbers of native red gums, threaten the entire river system for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that they increase salinity levels and promote the growth of algae through large deposits of organic matter in the water).
The carte de visite came from a nineteenth century travel album which contained images dating roughly to between 1873 and 1880.