Early photography

[Episode 12 | 1898 : Rowley]

Rowley visits Mr Merry, a photographer and boarder in Rowley's house. Mr Merry gives Rowley a photograph of the brickworks where Rowley's father worked. His mother asks Rowley about his 'book of good deeds' and Rowley explains that when he gets to 1,000 his father will come home.


The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [3]

Activity 1: 1800s photography
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Subtheme(s): Art, music and literature; Inventions and electronic media

Photographs tell a unique story about a time in history. They were not available in Australia until 1841 when the first daguerreotype arrived. A daguerreotype is a unique image on silver-plated copper. It is unique because it is the same plate that was in the camera and there is no negative. This photographic technique was popular until the mid 1850s.

  • Students could create a photo album of pictures that depict everyday life or children. There are images available from the series in the My Place for Teachers 'Stills gallery' that could be used. Additionally, students could locate royalty-free images through the National Library of Australia, 'Picture Australia' website, http://www.pictureaustralia.org or other related websites.
  • The album could be produced as a book or presentation. If a slideshow presentation program is used, each image should be linked to the website the images came from.

  • Ask students to annotate what the images represent within the theme of their album and reference the original photographer, if the name is available.

Activity 2: A picture speaks a thousand words
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Subtheme(s): Art, music and literature

A photographic album tells the story of someone's life in pictures. In many family photo albums, words are not required: the pictures tell the story. People and places within a photograph are captured in time.

  • Students can choose one photograph from the album they created in Activity 3:1800s photography. The photograph will be explored further through reflective writing. The reflective piece must be written through the eyes of the person or object in the photograph and must relate to the era of the photograph.


Activity 3: The early camera
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Subtheme(s): Historical events; Inventions and electronic media

In this clip, Mr Merry is using an early photographic method to develop a paper photographic image. This method dates back to the 1870s when the dry plate was invented and a glass negative plate with a dried gelatine emulsion was used to print the images.

  • How has the camera apparatus changed over 100 years? Students could research the camera and discover how the equipment and procedures for photography have changed over time, using the library and the internet for pictures and descriptions. Make sure that students note who invented different prototypes, when they were invented and what impact it had on the advancement of technology in this field.

  • Give each pair of students a decade to research, spanning 1820–2010. Students should research pictures and information about the camera and photography of that decade. Their pictures and a short paragraph of information can be presented on an A4 card and then all the cards can be displayed in the classroom in chronological order. This will become a pictorial display of the evolution of the camera.


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