Curator Gael Newton of the NGA has put together an exhibition of photography from Indonesia from the 1850s to the 1940s.
Prominanty featuring the Woodbury brothers and their successors, Garden of the East opens in February next year.
In 1852, at the age of eighteen, Walter B Woodbury left behind his engineering apprenticeship in Manchester to try his luck halfway around the world in Australia’s Victorian goldfields. On arrival, he realised the easy pickings were gone and he took a variety of jobs, soon changing from a rather sheltered British ‘new chum’ into a seasoned colonial.
Not long after, in Melbourne, recalling his boyhood experiments with cameras, Woodbury invested his meagre remaining funds in a camera. This time, however, his impulsiveness paid off. Woodbury rapidly became expert in the new process of wet-plate photography on glass, and he went onto to make the earliest photographic panorama in Australia.
By 1854, Woodbury had a studio in Beechworth, and in 1855 he teamed up with young James Page from Kent. In 1857, finding there were too many competing studios in Victoria, the partners in Woodbury & Page set off for Java, their first stop on a planned business circuit of exotic ports.