Monday, 25 November 2013

Then & Now: Holtermann (1/5)

To take his image, Charles Bayliss went up to the top of the specially constructed tower atop the North Sydney mansion of Bernard Otto Holtermann. This image is not part of the fabled panorama, but was taken five years later in about 1880. That large, black boat in the centre of Bayliss' image, would be about to go under the harbour bridge in my image. Milsons Point is centre left, and line of sight nips the black boat on its way over to Dawes Point. Bennelong Point, where the Opera House now stands, is centre image background.

Archivists at the State Library of NSW had long known about Holtermann and his photographic excursions, but had no examples of his work, or of that of Charles Bayliss and Beaufoy Merlin, who were both employed by Holtermann. In the early 1950s two of the archivists took it into their head to visit Holtermann's daughter, very aged and living further up the north shore in Chatswood. They had lovely tea and cakes, and the old dear chatted on so, but she had nothing of any note. As she showed them out the side gate, she remembered she had not shown them the back shed. Needing clippers and spades to work their way through the undergrowth, they eventually shoved the door aside to reveal boxes and boxes of glass plate negatives, none of them identified. With permission, they were eventually taken away, and the long and laborious task of preservation and identification began.

Taken prior to 1955, the sepia photograph in this post is out of copyright. I sourced it from the National Library of Australia


hamilton said...

As much as I love the view of the bridge and opera house, that old view of the harbour leaves me breathless!

diane b said...

I wish time travel was available. I would love to go back there then and experience a day or two. What a find in the back shed. Priceless.

Julie said...

Back sheds have that aura about them. This yarn was told to a group I was in that was given a talk by one of the current State Library archivists.