The Spurling legacy and the emergence of wilderness photography in Tasmania
Burgess, CH (2010) The Spurling legacy and the emergence of wilderness photography in Tasmania. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Spurling photographic
firm made a significant contribution to photography in Tasmania. However, over
the years, fact and fiction about the Spurlings became confused. Their
photographs became dispersed and inaccessible. Then, in the late 1970s a series
of co-incidences led to the re-discovery of a large number of photographic glass
plates. Some Spurling-related research commenced and then lapsed. Since then,
with the exception of a few dedicated investigators, the Spurlings' contribution to
Australian photography has remained largely untold. The task of this research
was to redress this situation by locating, worldwide, as many Spurling images as
possible, to catalogue and date them, and then to investigate relevant contextual
information. This data was then placed into an historical and social framework.
The thesis examines the careers of the three generations of Spurling
photographers -- Stephen 1st, his two photographer sons Stephen 2nd and Frederick,
and his grandson Stephen 3rd. It describes and analyses their cumulative
photographic achievements from the early 1840s through to 1941, and traces their
move from portraiture through to scenic, and ultimately wilderness photography.
It also examines Stephen 3rd's significant wilderness treks and looks at the artistic
and photographic conventions that influenced the ways in which the Spurlings
depicted the landscape. Other subjects considered include issues surrounding the
production of these images, and how wilderness photography can play an
important role in alerting the public to environmental conservation.
By examining these issues, this thesis adds significantly to the current literature
on Australian photographic history. Although many photo-historians refer to the
Spurlings, most have either overlooked or dismissed the significance of the
Spurlings' photographic legacy, or provided only brief overviews. This thesis
argues that while some of the factors that led to the Spurlings' virtual
disappearance from the historical record were due to external influences and
prejudices, the Spurlings themselves did little to record their history for posterity.
This was due in part to modesty, but also a desire to keep family secrets hidden.
This thesis concludes with a call for more accurate, unbiased and data-driven
accounts of early Tasmanian photography, and a re-assessment of the Spurlings'
place in Australian photographic history.
|Item Type:||Thesis (PhD)|
|Additional Information:||Text © 2010 the Author.|
|Deposited By:||Digital Archives Librarian|
|Deposited On:||10 Dec 2010 16:20|
|Last Modified:||04 Jul 2011 10:05|
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