State Library of South Australia logoTaking it to the edge heading
SA Memory. South Australia past and present, for the future

Taking it to the edge: did you know? Photography and exploration

Although there had been a few prior attempts, photography was not much used in Australian exploration before the 1890s. Then in 1891 the Elder Scientific Exploring Expedition, equipped with cameras lent by the University of Adelaide, took a large number of photographs both of the country traversed, and of the local Aboriginal peoples. The expedition photographer was Dr. FJ Elliott. The photographic record of the expedition was one of the greatest successes as the expedition itself ended in disarray.

Prior to this in 1869 Surveyor General George Goyder had some photographs taken during the establishment of Port Darwin. Photography was also used in several other survey expeditions in Victoria and the Northern Territory.

The Horn Scientific Expedition in Central Australia in 1894 also used photography, and the Calvert Expedition to Western Australia, under Larry Wells in 1896/97 was equipped with the same cameras that had been used by the Elder Expedition. Cameras and any photographs taken were abandoned when the expedition reduced its equipment to a minimum in a desperate search for water and life.

Richard Maurice used a panoramic camera on his expeditions in the first decade of the 20th century, and produced interesting images of Central Australia. Use of photography in the central deserts was sporadic, and not until Ted Colson and Cecil Madigan in the 1930s were more photographic images to emerge from Central Australia.

In the meantime, cameras and moving pictures, were becoming more heavily used in the Antarctic, notably by Herbert Ponting and Frank Hurley, on the expeditions of Robert Scott, Douglas Mawson, and Ernest Shackleton.

Further reading:

Newton, Gael Shades of light: photography and Australia 1839-1988 Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1988.

Ayers Rock (Uluru), Central Australia
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Creek in the Everard Range
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Forrest Rock Hole
View item details
Add To My SA Memory
Near Lake Deborah
View item details
Add To My SA Memory

Items 1 - 4 of 4



About SA Memory

Explore SA Memory

SA Memory Themes


My SA Memory


What's on