Photographic print, mounted stereoview New South Wales locomotive number one Redfern Station, paper / albumen / silver / ink, published by William Hetzer, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1858-1860
This photograph was published in one of the earlier sets of William Hetzer's stereoviews, and his blind stamp can be seen imprinted on the right-hand side of the mount. This image is especially relevant to the Powerhouse Museum collections as it is the earliest photographic record of Australia's first Locomotive. Appropriately named Locomotive No. 1, this train is now part of the Powerhouse Collection. This locomotive arrived in Sydney in February 1855 and worked on the NSW rail lines until March 1877 when it was withdrawn from operation after having travelled more than 250,000 kms.
In 1850 William Hetzer arrived in Sydney, with his wife Thekla, where they immediately set up a photographic studio at 15 Hunter Street. Hetzer initially specisalised in calotypes but soon adopted the new collodion based positive/negative processes, like the ambrotype and albumen prints, which were appearing in the early 1850s.
In 1858 Hetzer embarked on what is now his best known enterprise, the publication of a set of 36 albumen prints taken with a stereo-view camera. The success of the first series encouraged Hetzer to keep publishing Sydney views and by 1859 he had over 60 different views. Hetzer's views of Sydney - "... its harbour, principal buildings, streets and neighbouring scenery, &c." were among the earliest outdoor photographs taken in Sydney. The sets sold well and Hetzer continued to publish stereo-views of Sydney and its harbour, right up until 1863.
In 1867, Hetzer left Australia and returned to England, auctioning off his photographic equipment, and about 3500 registered negatives, to the photographer Joseph Degotardi.
For more information please see attached Powerhouse Museum Theme, 'Early Photographs of Sydney by William Hetzer.'
A stereo photograph is comprised of two photographs, one taken as the left eye sees the view and another slightly offset as the right eye would see a view. These photographs are mounted on a card which is then fitted into a viewer. The viewer allows the brain to superimpose the two images, imitating the three dimensional stereovision of the human eye.
Stereo photographs are essentially the combination of two inventions of the 1830s. Sir Charles Wheatstone announced the first of these in 1838; it was an optical viewer that could combine two specially developed three-dimensional drawings that took into account the slight variation between the right and the left eye. The second occurred in 1839 when two different photographic processes, the 'daguerreotype' by Louis Daguerre and the 'Talbotype' or 'Calotype' by Henry Fox Talbot, were announced to the world.
In the 1840s Sir Charles Wheatstone began experimenting with Talbot's process which enabled him to place two slightly offset photographic images in his viewer. The success of these experiments inspired a Scotsman, Sir David Brewster, to announce in 1849 his modification of the stereo format, a portable viewing device called a lenticular stereoscope. It was Brewster's stereoscope which defined the standard for the new format and which was popularised from the early 1850s.
Geoff Barker, August 2009.
William Darrah, 'The World of Stereographs', W. Darrah, 1997
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, 'The History of Photography', Thames and Hudson, 1955, 253