HETZER, William fl. 1850-67
View of George Street, Sydney, showing the Commercial Bank and Bank of New South Wales, 1860-63.
Stereoscopic albumen print photograph, each individual image 80 x 77 mm (arched format), original plain greyish buff mount 84 x 172 mm, verso with studio label printed in blue ‘Stereoscopic Views of Sydney and Environs by W. Hetzer, Photographic Artist, 287 George Street, Sydney, N.S.W.’ and an accompanying contemporary caption in ink ‘George St. / Commercial Bank – Bank of N.S. Wales’; both albumen prints are in fine condition, with good tonal range and sharp detail; the mount is free from foxing.
This view looks north along George Street. It was taken from an elevated vantage point on the east side of the street – apparently the balcony of the building adjacent to the Post Office, one of the columns of which frames the image on the right. On the west side of the street, in the left foreground and standing on the corner of Barrack Lane, is the original David Jones building built in 1838; on the opposite corner of Barrack Lane stands the magnificent Palazzo-style Commercial Bank, whose façade was removed piecemeal in 1923 and reconstructed on the grounds of the University of Sydney; and a little further north, on the corner of Wynyard Street at the bottom end of Martin Place, stands the Bank of New South Wales, which was demolished in 1923.
William 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; a journalist’s review in The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 1859, stated 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 only two institutional copies of this Hetzer stereoview. One is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia (NGA 83.3665.143), but its catalogue entry does not suggest a specific date. The other is in the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney (87/1019-12); 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). MAAS also holds another Hetzer stereoview (P3145-6), taken from almost the same spot, but at street level, to which Barker assigns an earlier date of 1858-1860 (MAAS).