Photo of the Day

photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum

1956 portrait of a woman

December 23rd, 2014 by

Object

This year marks the centenary of Australian designer Gordon Andrew’s birth (1914-2001). To mark this occasion I post this colourful 1950s portrait of a woman taken in the Olivetti Australia Pty Ltd showroom interior designed by Gordon Andrews in 1956. Gordon had created showrooms and displays for British Olivetti while living in London from 1949-1953, then following his return to Australia in 1955, Andrews was invited to design this office/showroom for Olivetti in Sydney. The Museum’s Gordon Andrews design archive contains a series of material relating to this project, including the above colour transparency. It is not yet known if this image was taken by Gordon Andrews or one of his contemporaries, Laurence Le Guay, David Potts, Axel Poignant or Douglas Kerrigan for example who also documented Andrews’ colourful interior design for the Olivetti showroom.

A contemporary article focusing on the remodelling work undertaken by Gordon Andrews for Olivetti titled ‘Dingy Factory Becomes Fine Showroom’ throws a light on the unusual door featured in the photograph:

On the sixth floor of a city building a dingy clothing factory has been converted into a bright showroom and office suite for Olivetti Australia Pty Ltd. The remodelling work has been done by Gordon Andrews, design-consultant. … In the showroom, an old immovable strongroom posed a knotty problem. No attempt was made to camouflage the door, but the whole of the strongroom wall has been covered by an abstract mural, executed in clear coloured glazes over a flat white ground. This is flanked by a white wall with a long marble top set on three copper legs.

Photography unattributed

© All rights reserved


Parramatta River and Spectacle Island

December 22nd, 2014 by

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Dental act

December 19th, 2014 by

MP-56-0010

Circus terminology can be a little disconcerting. This photograph is, in fact, described as depicting a ‘Dental act starring Eve and Toots’. The photograph is from the Wirth’s Circus Archive, collection, c. 1950. In accordance with the history of the Wirth’s Circus, the archive contains objects from all over the world: the UK , New Zealand , South Africa, USA,  Brazil, Java, Singapore, France,  Germany,  Switzerland,  Denmark,  Sweden,  Netherlands, 1879-1970.

Step into the ring of one of the most delightfully daring, spectacularly spectacular feats of showmanship, curiosity, absurdity and intrigue at Circus Factory, opening at the Powerhouse, December 20.

Photo by Frank, 42 Greenbank Road Darlington [England]

Wirth’s Circus Archive 2012/104/1


Juggler

December 18th, 2014 by

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A juggler with Wirth’s Circus Archive collection, c. 1950.

Step into the ring of one of the most delightfully daring, spectacularly spectacular feats of showmanship, curiosity, absurdity and intrigue at Circus Factory, opening at the Powerhouse, December 20.

Photo by Krischock Studios Adelaide.


Clicking knives and clicking press

December 17th, 2014 by

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This intriguing arrangement of abstract shapes laid out by one of our photographers shows some clicking knives, tools of the shoemaker’s trade. The knives are used with a clicking press, (see photograph below), of which Melanie Pitkin writes:

A clicking press is used to cut the various shapes of leather used to make a shoe, such as the sole and uppers. The leather is placed onto the flat bed and cut to shape using a die cutting blade. This press, made by Ramsden and Chaplin in Australia (1917-1925), is thought to be one of the earliest employed by the Australian footwear industry. It replaced skilled labourers, known  as ‘clickers’, who cut the leather by hand. The small electric motor is a later adaptation.

This clicking machine is currently on display in the exhibition Recollect: Shoes on show at the Powerhouse Museum until May 2015.

97-330-1-1

 

Photography (knives) by Sotha Bourn

Photography  (press) by Timothy Morris

© All rights reserved


The platform

December 16th, 2014 by

 

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The platform shoe, as we know it today, made its first appearance in the mid-1930s, as demonstrated with this pair (above) made by Edward Meller for Lady Hurley. Edward Meller was a retailer of imported high-fashion shoes based in Sussex Street, Sydney, who also made-to-order shoes for his clients.

The modern day platform has its origins in the elevated platform sole shoes, or chopines as they were called in England, worn by noble women between the 15th and 17th centuries. At this time, platform shoes served both a functional purpose (to protect the wearer’s shoes from mud and dirt) and to indicate the owner’s social status – the higher the platform sole, the more important the wearer.

The platform, like the wedge, dominated women’s footwear fashions well into the 1940s. But, it was between the 1960s and 1980s that we witness the height of their popularity.

These platform shoes, along with other examples, are on display in the exhibition Recollect: Shoes on show at the Powerhouse Museum until May 2015. For more information, see: Stepping Out: three centuries of shoes (Powerhouse Publishing, 2008) p.82

 

Post by Melanie Pitkin, Assistant Curator

Photo: Sue Stafford

© All rights reserved


The flying angels

December 15th, 2014 by

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This photograph from the Wirth’s Circus archive shows Eileen, Doris, Madeline and Gladys Wirth as The Flying Angels, c. 1930. Hanging by their necks, they would soar 13 metres in the air, accompanied by music from the opera Lucia di Lammermoor.

Step into the ring of one of the most delightfully daring, spectacularly spectacular feats of showmanship, curiosity, absurdity and intrigue at Circus Factory, opening at the Powerhouse, December 20.

Photographer unknown

Wirths Circus archive 2012/104/1


Guiness heels

December 12th, 2014 by

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These shoes have been photographed to show an almost 360 degree view of the design, of which Melanie Pitkin writes:

Christian Louboutin is known for his unconventional and whimsical shoes, often influenced by pop culture. In this pair of black patent leather shoes with almond shaped toe, Louboutin has covered the Cuban heel with part of an aluminium Guinness beer can. They were made at the request of British style icon and accessories designer, Lulu Guinness, to celebrate her family heritage.

This pair of Guinness heels are currently on display in the exhibition Recollect: Shoes on show at the Powerhouse Museum until May 2015.

Photography by Sue Stafford

© All rights reserved


Friends of Florence with parasols

December 11th, 2014 by

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This snapshot photograph of Florence Broadhurst, (seated on the right) and friends, is from the 1920s, when she travelled through Asia as a member of a performance troupe. Florence and her friends were well-equipped for the tropics, with parasols, solar topees and sun hats, although the man in the centre seems dressed for a different climate.

Florence Broadhurst,  the stylish young woman who was to become one of Australia’s best known designers, was photographed several times carrying an oil paper parasol during her travels through Asia in the 1920s.

The fashion pages of The Sydney Morning Herald, in August 1926, dedicated a good deal of space to the parasol, predicting that it would be very fashionable in the spring. The Herald published a further update on the parasol just a week later.In this photograph, however, the popular women’s accessory has been appropriated by the two men standing.

Born in Mt Perry, Queensland, Florence exhibited musical talent from an early age and performed regularly for family and friends. Later she joined a troupe called The Globe Trotters and, in her early twenties, travelled with them fifteenth month tour, departing from Brisbane in 1922 and stopping in Singapore, Bali and Manchuria, (where the parasol may have been of some practical use as well). After the tour, Broadhurst and some other performers returned to Shanghai, the commercial centre of colonial Asia, where ‘Bobby’ opened The Broadhurst Academy.

Photographer unknown

 


The case of the concealed shoe

December 10th, 2014 by

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Many of the shoes in the collection have been photographed singly and in pairs. This one, however, lost its companion a few centuries ago. It is a single shoe with a fascinating history. Melanie Pitkin writes:

This child’s leather shoe, thought to date to the early 1700s, was found concealed in the wall of a house demolished in England in the early 20th century. It was believed that hiding a shoe in the wall while a house was being built would protect the owners and help to ward off evil spirits. Evidence of the practice has mainly been found in the 18th and 19th century, although shoes have been found in houses in Western Europe, which date as far back as the 1300s.

This shoe is on display in the exhibition Recollect: Shoes on show at the Powerhouse Museum until May 2015. For more information, see: Stepping Out: three centuries of shoes (Powerhouse Publishing, 2008) p.30

Post by Melanie Pitkin, Assistant Curator

Photo: Scott Donkin

© All rights reserved


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