FAUCHERY, Antoine (1823-1861) and DAINTREE, Richard (1832-1878)
View near Heidelberg, the Yarra flooded, 1858.
Albumen print from collodion wet-plate negative, 194 x 242 mm, laid down on its original thickish paper mount, 240 x 310 mm, with a fully contemporary caption in pencil at lower right ‘near Heidelberg’; a strong print with good tonal range and clarity, some very light vertical wrinkling from the original mounting process; the mount is clean and unfoxed.
One of the earliest paper-print photographic views of Melbourne, from the series Sun Pictures of Victoria, produced in 1858 by Antoine Fauchery and Richard Daintree. The view looks east from elevated ground on the Heidelberg side of the Yarra, above one of its most serpentine stretches, with the maze of flooded river flats – arable land devoted to the growing of crops for the Melbourne’s burgeoning gold rush populace – occupying the middle ground of the photograph. Prone to regular and occasionally severe flooding in the spring and summer months, this basin would eventually be abandoned by market gardeners after an initially prosperous period.
The image is reproduced as Plate 15 in Reilly and Carew, Sun Pictures of Victoria : the Fauchery-Daintree Collection, 1858 (Melbourne : Library Council of Victoria, 1983), where the authors note that, in spite of the Heidelberg locality’s reputation as a picturesque spot which boasted several wealthy “out of town” residences, it failed to make a favourable impression on Fauchery, who wrote: ‘… some sixty ugly huts spread out at intervals at the bottom of a wide, shallow valley. It was Hedelberg’ (ibid., p.52).
The French photographer and writer Antoine Fauchery (1823-1861) arrived in Australia in 1852 and spent the next several years prospecting on the Victorian goldfields – where he achieved limited success – and running a cafe in Melbourne. His account of life on the goldfields, Lettres d’un mineur en Australie, was published in Paris in 1857.
The English geological surveyor and photographer Richard Daintree (1832-1878) arrived on the Victorian goldfields in 1853, but like Fauchery he also failed to strike it lucky, and quickly took up a position as geologist with the Government Mineralogical Survey under Alfred Selwyn. He returned to England in the mid-1850s to further his training, but by early 1858 he was back in Melbourne.
It was at this point that Daintree met Antoine Fauchery. The two shared similar interests and both were proficient in the new field of photography. They went into business together to publish a series of their own photographs of the colony of Victoria. This series of fifty large format photographs, created using the new collodion wet-plate process, was titled Sun Pictures of Victoria, and was released in ten monthly installments from mid-1858. Surviving individual examples of any of the photographs from Sun Pictures are rare indeed. The State Library of Victoria and the State Library of Queensland hold the only recorded complete sets. Sun Pictures unquestionably constitutes the most important photographic record of the colony prior to 1860, in terms of the quality of the prints and the range of subject matter. It contains scenes of life on the goldfields, views of the booming city of Melbourne, highly significant portraits of Aborigines and of prominent colonizers such as Sir Henry Barkly, Bishop Perry, Edouard Adet and Sir John O’Shanassy.
In a review of the first installment of five photographs in Sun Pictures, published in the Melbourne newspaper The Argus on 13 August 1858, the journalist was glowing in his praise:
‘Sun Pictures of Victoria: Under this title Messrs. A. Fauchery and R. Daintree have just published the first monthly part of a work which it is proposed to extend to ten numbers, and which is to comprise 50 large photographs, in illustration of our colonial celebrities, our landscape and marine scenery, and our private and public architecture. The invention of the stereomonoscope, by means of which the objects exhibited in a sun picture, of any size, assume solidity and relief to the eye of the spectator, gives an additional value to photographic transcripts of nature. The collection undernotice are admirable specimens of this branch of art, for art it is; as, irrespective of the skill requisite to manipulate successfully, the manipulators must also possess the artistic faculty in the choice of subjects, in the selection of the most picturesque point of view, and in discerning the most favorable aspects or accidental dispositions of light and shade. With this faculty Messrs. Fauchery and Daintree appear to be endowed, and it appears to advantage in more than one of the pictures now before us. These are five in number, and merit separate notice. No. 1. The portrait of His Excellency the Governor has much of the effect of a sepia drawing, but with a softness and delicacy of finish such as a sepia drawing rarely exhibits. It Is especially rich in tone, and strikingly like the original, which (paradoxical as the assertion may appear) a great many photographic portraits are not… We may add that the pictures are mounted on cardboard, and will constitute, when the full number has been issued, a work of particular value and interest’.
Fauchery left Melbourne in early 1859, and worked as a photographer and journalist for a French military expedition in China during 1860-61. He died of dysentery in Japan in 1861.
Daintree went on to become government surveyor in north Queensland, and his photographs taken in that colony in the 1860s are of comparable significance to the Sun Pictures of Victoria series.
Australian institutional holdings:
State Library of Victoria (three examples); National Gallery of Australia (Accession Number 2007.81.140.20, catalogued as Tree on hill in front of fence).