Photographic print, mounted stereoview of Commercial Bank George Street Sydney, paper / albumen / silver / ink, published by William Hetzer, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1860-1863
This photograph of the Commercial Bank in George Street was published in one of the later sets of William Hetzer's stereoviews. This stereo view taken from the second story of a building located near to the present day Martin Place. The entrance to Barrack Lane is on the left next to where the two horses are tethered. One of Sydney's shortest streets - Barrack Street - was originally called Barrack Lane and was the side gate of the George Street military barracks. On one side of barrack lane is the Commercial bank building also designed by J F Hilly. The Commercial Bank building is no longer to be seen in George Street as its façade was donated to the Sydney University in 1923, there it was rebuilt and can still be seen today.
Perhaps of more interest is the building on the other side of the street. This is the original David Jones building built in 1838, after Jones broke up his partnership with Charles Appleton. This business survived the depression of the 1840s, and went from strength to strength during the boom of the 1850s. In 1856, Jones retired a wealthy man and took in partners, and leaving capital worth 30,000 pounds. A few years later, when this picture was taken the firm faced with bankruptcy and Jones bought out his partners and fully discharged the debts. He retired for a second and final time in 1866 and died in 1873.
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 a 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 sets of 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.'
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, October 2008
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