Saturday, 22 June 2013

Sepia Saturday 182: William Snowdall Anderson of Ilkeston and Lorne

Sepia Saturday by Alan Burnett and Kat Mortensen

It's not often that a Sepia Saturday image prompt gives me the opportunity to include a profile of a Victorian Derbyshire photographer, and it seems unlikely that this week's photograph of a horse rider in the Australian bush should do so. Thanks to sharp-spotted fellow photohistorian Marcel Safier, I am able to present a Derbyshire photographer who emigrated to Australia, and spent most of his life in a remote town on the coast of Victoria.

Image © North East Midland Photographic Record and courtesy of Picture the Past
Granby Street, Ilkeston, 1964 (Ref. DCER001377)
Image © NE Midland Photographic Record, courtesy of Picture the Past

William Snowdall Anderson was born in 1867 in Surfleet, a small village in rural south Lincolnshire (coincidentally only a couple of miles from the village of Pinchbeck, a name which featured in an article here last week). He was the third child of a wandering blacksmith; by his early teens the family had lived in at least five different villages. Little is known of his early career as a photographer except that by late 1886, when the 1887 edition of Kelly's trade directory was published, and by which time he was not yet 20 years old, he had opened a photographic studio in Granby Street, Ilkeston, Derbyshire. Adamson shows him operational at this address for at least a year until 1888.

Image courtesy of Marcel Safier
Camperdown Chronicle, Saturday, 20 April 1895, page 2
Image courtesy of Marcel Safier

In November 1889 Anderson emigrated to Australia on the steamship Port Caroline, arriving in Victoria in early 1890, and was married to Bertha Wardle later that year. He worked as a photographer, initially with a studio in South Yarra, later touring Victoria as an itinerant photographer in a mobile caravan.

Image © and courtesy of State Library of Victoria
Mount St. George, Lorne, 1901 (Acc No H96.160/606)
Silver gelatin print (210 x 160mm) by W.S. Anderson, Lorne
Image © and courtesy of State Library of Victoria

In December 1898 he purchased a photographic business from J.S. Norman and J.W. Brown in the township of Lorne on the coast south-west of Melbourne.

Image © and courtesy of State Library of Victoria
Phantom Falls in flood, Lorne, 1902 (Acc No H96.160/682)
Silver gelatin print (157 x 210mm) by W.S. Anderson, Lorne
Image © and courtesy of State Library of Victoria

Lorne was then a fairly remote community, situated at the mouth of the Erskine River on the shores of Louttit Bay, accessible only by sea or by a long dusty road journey through the forested hills of what is now the Great Otway National Park. Anderson was not the only one drawn to it; Rudyard Kipling penned the following after a visit in 1891:

Buy my hot-wood clematis,
Buy a frond of fern,
Gathered where the Erskine leaps
Down the road to Lorne.
The Flowers, 1896
Image © and courtesy of Museum Victoria
W. Mountjoy's Coach, Erskine River, Lorne, c. late 1890s-early 1900s
Mounted albumen print (165 x 107mm) by William Anderson of Lorne
Image © and courtesy of Museum Victoria

Judging by the number of similar photographs of Mountjoy's coach full of passengers crossing a bridge over the Erskine River, complete with characteristic Eucalyptus-clad backdrop, in the collection of Museum Victoria, these customers must have formed a significant part of Anderson's business. Over time, however, his output varied considerably, picturing both the beauty of the landscape surrounding Lorne and the lifestyle and character of its inhabitants and visitors.


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The same view today is different, naturally, but still recognisable.

Image © and courtesy of Museum Victoria
Unidentified woman, c.late 1920s-early 1930s (Ref. MM 109704)
Silver gelatin print (89 x 137mm), attrib. William S. Anderson
Image © and courtesy of Museum Victoria

The following is from Museum Victoria:
From 1898 until his death in 1948 Anderson photographed the changing surrounding landscapes and visitors of guest houses in the area. His practice also included panoramic photography, stereoscopic photography, portraiture and experiments with trick photography.

Image © and courtesy of State Library of Victoria
Wagon, team of oxen and dog, 1905 (Acc No H96.160/1042)
Mounted silver gelatin print (205 x 150m), by W.S. Anderson
Image © and courtesy of State Library of Victoria

William S. Anderson died at Ormond, Victoria on 2 July 1948, aged 80, leaving four children and a legacy of five decades' worth of photographs, many of which survive in the State Library of Victoria, Museum Victoria and, no doubt, tucked away in innumerable family archives.

References

Barrie, Sandy (nd) Biographical notes for William Snowdall Anderson, (pers. comm., courtesy of Marcel Safier)

29 comments:

  1. It was very interesting to read about places that I have been to.

    I am a fan of William Anderson's photography too.

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    1. I'm fascinated to discover that you've heard of him too. I thought that perhaps he was little known, and his work hardly celebrated. Good to hear.

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  2. Trick photography? I wonder what kind of tricks.

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    1. Yes, I wondered too, but the brief biographical notes proved frustratingly lacking in explanatory details.

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  3. I love that you included Rudyard Kipling; and I'm off to Google for 'stereoscopic' photography.

    P.S. Nice new header.

    Hazel

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    1. Thanks Hazel. It's been there a while, but I guess you were taking a break from SS when I changed it.

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  4. He must have been an ambitious young man to open a photographic studio so young. It obviously paid off as he made a real career out of it and produced many wonderful images I'm sure.

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    1. Yes, I thought it quite adventurous for him to open a studio in a town some distance from where he had grown up, and then venture abroad on an adventure even more exciting.

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  5. Anderson was wonderful -- those gelatin prints are so clear! Love those oxen, too.

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    1. I think his photographs give us a very good flavour of that part of Australia.

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  6. Can't make up my mind today. Which did I like more, the story, or the photographs? Fortunately, I don't have to choose -- both are my treat today.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed them both Joan.

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  7. It seems to take a lot of oxen to pull a wagon.

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    1. Yes, but I imagine that it's a pretty heavy load - I would guess at least a couple of tonnes, probably three or four.

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  8. Mountjoy's Coach looks definitely better in sepia. I love the man with the beard sticking his head out of the coach. Is that a bowler I spy on his head? I haven't been to Lorne but my Melbourne friends say it's top notch. The photo of Phantom Falls is spectacular.

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    1. The coastal road to Lorne was, according that what I read, only built in the 1920s or 1930s, so it must have been a rather remote destination for much of Anderson's lifetime.

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  9. Phantom Falls are spectacular indeed. Anderson left a fine legacy of photos. Mountjoy's Coach is terrific.

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    1. Sadly many of the scans of his coach photos are rather faded. I suspect his photographic supplies in the early days were not always of the best quality, or perhaps just past their "Best Before" date.

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  10. Thanks for introducing us to this guy, Brett. Those falls are something else. I enlarged the picture and could see all kinds of faces on the rocks and in the trees.

    Super post!

    Kathy M.

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    1. Yes, it was the best I could find of an already excellent body of work.

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  11. He was one excellent photographer, a real artist. He left a wonderful legacy. Great post.

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  12. Thank you for the introduction to this artist. All the shots are wonderful, but I'm especially drawn to the mystical waterfall. It's nice to know his work survived.

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    1. My pleasure, T+L. I've been looking for an appropriate opportunity to feature Anderson for some time - I should not have left it so long,

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  13. A great commitment on his part,
    and quite the legacy he left...
    The falls are lovely.
    :)~
    HUGZ

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    1. I suppose once you find your niche, your stick to it.

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    2. Still searching for mine...
      :)~

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    3. I don't know about that - you seem to have found a pretty good spot to me.

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    4. Thanks!!
      Still wandering between nature and architecture. Even my style is not set yet.
      But exploring is fun too! I occasionally find inspiration in the work of others and test a few things. Though I doubt it'll ever land me in a museum... Just on the walls on my friends. Not even my own!!!
      :D~

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