HETZER, William fl. 1850-67
Sydney from Governor Bourke’s statue, on the edge of the Inner Domain, circa 1859.
Stereoscopic albumen print photograph, each individual image 80 x 77 mm (arched format), original plain greyish buff mount 84 x 172 mm, verso with contemporary caption in ink ‘Sydney – from the Domain’; both albumen prints are in fine condition, with good tonal range and sharp detail; the mount is free from foxing.
This view, looking west across Macquarie Street to Bent Street, was taken by William Hetzer from a specially constructed platform at the top of Governor Bourke’s statue, on the edge of what was known as the Inner Domain (now the entrance to the Royal Botanic Gardens). On the north corner of Bent Street stands the Public Subscription Library.
Hetzer had arrived in Sydney from Germany in 1850. With his wife Thekla as his assistant, Hetzer was active as a professional photographer in Sydney from this date until the Hetzers’ departure from the colony in 1867. From 1858 Hetzer pioneered the stereoscopic albumen print photograph in Australia, and in 1860 was also among the first Australian photographers to experiment with and promote the carte de visite. His studio premises were located at 287 George Street from 1859.
Hetzer’s stereoscopic photographs are among the earliest outdoor views of Sydney. He was the first photographer to attempt to make a comprehensive record of the buildings, streetscapes and topography of this rapidly developing metropolis with its distinctive and majestic natural setting. From late 1858 until 1863, Hetzer produced a significant number of such views which proved immensely popular with the public. The series titled Stereoscopic Views of Sydney and Environs was first offered by subscription in September 1858, with an initial set of 36 views. During 1859 Hetzer added to the series; the following journalist’s review in The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 1859, states that there were ‘now upwards of sixty slides’ commercially available, and that ‘not the least interesting portion of the series is that which shows the streets, of which six only have been taken as yet, viz., George-street, Bent-street, and the Australian Club ; Macquarie-street (two views), showing prominently the Australian Library, the Free Church, and Council Chambers ; Bridge-street, with the Exchange as a prominent feature; and Hunter-street from George-street, with the premises of the Sydney Morning Herald in the perspective.’
We can locate two institutional copies of this Hetzer stereoview; one is in the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney (87/1019-2). Curator Geoff Barker is of the opinion that the view ‘is one of the later sets of William Hetzer’s stereoviews’, and he dates it to between 1860 and 1863 (MAAS); the other is in the State Library of New South Wales (call no. PXB 698 / file no. FL657102), but is dated to 1859. This earlier date is likely to be correct, as the entry notes ‘The elevated viewpoint indicates the photograph was made from the tower erected over the Sir Richard Bourke statue in May 1859’.