Threads of connection
Ambrotype photograph, c1860 Meroogal Collection, Historic Houses Trust of NSW

Through a glass darkly

A star-gazing schoolmaster, a mourning widow, an immigrant farmer, a practical chemist, a defiant bushranger, an unidentified child and a trio of genteel young girls: they all feature in the earliest portrait photographs from the Sydney Living Museum’s collections. Dated from 1855 to 1867, these pictures were created using the daguerreotype and ambrotype processes, two of the earliest photographic formats invented. They are usually preserved under glass, gilt-framed in plush velvet-lined cases. They are fascinating but mysterious. The correct lighting and angle of view are required to clearly see a positive image on the mirror-like surface of the daguerreotype or to see through the reflective layers of the ambrotype. Without provenance it is often impossible to date the image or identify the sitter. Those who cherished the ‘likeness’ had no surface on which to inscribe.

A Mickey Burke mystery
Ben Hall 1837-1865
Eleanor Wingate 1813-1898
Emma Rouse 1843-1928
Hannah Terry Rouse 1819-1907
Kenneth McKenzie c1835-1922
Lizzie Rouse 1845-1931
Mother and Daughter
Mrs Jane Kennerley 1809-1877
Phoebe Rouse 1847-1931
Richard Rouse Terry 1838-1898
Robert Hunt 1830-1892
Roderick McGregor c1842-1919
Thomas McKenzie c1794-1892