I signed up for this workshop expecting to get a refresher on types of photography and to maybe learn something new about the collections at the Australian War Memorial (AWM). I was not disappointed.

Walking into the room there was a table laden with historic photographs of all kinds, glass plates, and even a Stereoscope. After some short introductions, Vick Gwyn jumped straight into showing us some stunning Ambrotype photos. There was an ambrotype photo of a Staff Sergeant in a gorgeous leather case (obviously someone cared a lot about this photo at one stage). The AWM has a collection record for the Staff Sergeant photo. While handling these photos the voice of an old teacher was in my head, “one hand at the back and don’t you dare pick it up by the corners!” Advice Vick shared with us too, good to know I remember something worthwhile from those lessons.


We also saw the original print of the Australian 11th Battalion Soldiers on the side of Great Pyramid of Khufu. I was really excited to see this photo, as it’s become famous of late because of a bit of controversy. Some people believed that soldiers were carrying around the corpse of a friend and that act was captured in this photo. AWM staff assured everyone the ‘myth’ had been debunked and that there is no evidence to support such an act.


Other types of photographs on display were glass plates, paget plates, tintype (an easily accessible way to make photos in the late 1800’s and were mass produced) and hand coloured photographs. We also learned about the collodion process and a little something interesting about copyright. I vaguely remembered that copyright for images is different from manuscripts (which is what I used to dealing with). Vick confirmed that by informing us everything she had on display was out of copyright (because it was photographed before 1955) and in the public domain. Or taken by an official photographer employed by the government during WW2, which essentially amounted to the same thing.

This workshop re-sparked my interest in historic photography and treasures you can encounter when decoding an image.


Till next time!
DFTBA (Don’t Forget to be Awesome)

Featured image: Three “fit” workers at Shimo Sonkurai No 1 Camp