Photography at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition
1879 exhibition South Nave from the Dome
Richards & Co.' were in fact a different company and they are the company credited as the authors of the photographs in Official Record of the Sydney International Exhibition1879, even though some photographs of the inaugural ceremony must have been taken by the earlier company.
One reason this may have occurred is due to the fact that Richards & Co. were in fact Thomas Edwin Richards and William Henry Jennings and T. E. Richards had been a partner in the earlier company. If all this was not complicated enough, the popularity of the names of the men who formed Richards & Co. added yet another layer of complexity to the story for, as Catherine De Lorenzo points out, they bore an uncanny resemblance to the Sydney figures Thomas Richards who for some twenty years had been working as Government Printer in Sydney and Patrick Jennings Sydney's Executive Commissioner. Neither of these men was involved in Richards & Co. but Thomas Richards, as Government Printer, did publish many books containing photographs taken by his employees of events and scenery in Australia.
In the end the bulk of the photographs were of the 'Garden Palace' building and the exhibits appear to have been produced by 'Roberts and Co.'. While the Exhibition was open Richards & Co. had their display of their photographs in the main hall, next to Queen Victoria's statue. These were also entered in competition and although they failed to win more than a 'Commended' award the display shouldn't be considered a failure as no doubt its primary purpose was to encourage people to have their portraits taken in the specially constructed photographic gallery in the Exhibition grounds. This gallery would have been set up to take prints but its bread and butter would have been portrait shots of visitors. Thus while historians tend to focus on the photographs of the building and displays at the exhibition it is also important to remember that for many individuals their memories were contained in the portraits taken during their visit.
Once the exhibition was over, controls on the photographing of the Garden Palace and the other buildings became less strict and as a result other photographers began to take their own images of the buildings. These included John Paine and Charles Bayliss; the latter of whom was one of Sydney's most respected photographers and must have felt a little annoyed at missing out on the official contract.
The chance of further exhibitions and more photographic opportunities came crashing to the ground in September 1882 when the 'Garden Palace' was entirely destroyed by fire.
Geoff Barker, July, 2009
Baker, R. T., 'Technological Museum', in the Australian Technical Journal of Science and Art, Vol. 1, No. 2, 30 March, 1897
Commissioners of the Sydney International Exhibition, 'Official Record of the Sydney International Exhibition1879', Thomas Richards, Government Printer, Sydney 1881
Davison, G., Webber, K., Yesterday's Tomorrows; the Powerhouse Museum and its Precursors 1880-2005, Powerhouse Publishing in association with the University of New South Wales Press, 2005
P., Proudfoot, R. Maguire, and R. Freestone (eds.), Colonial City Global City, Sydney's International Exhibition 1879, Crossing Press, Sydney, 2000
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