The Photograph and Australia: Nicholas Caire

Nicholas Caire / Fairy scene at the Landslip, Blacks’ Spur c.1878 / Albumen photograph / Collection: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, purchased 1994

Early European explorers, then settlers followed by photographers, attempted to describe what they saw, their reactions to landscape, flora and fauna. A major focus was Antipodean ferns, especially the giant tree ferns, a fern fever, or pteridomania, consumed the British Empire and the market became immense with many of the areas where ferns had grown in abundance being despoiled.

The Victorian and Edwardian appetites for exotica and the acquisition of whatever new thing was to be found in the natural and constructed world led to unprecedented crazes. Photographs of ferns and there locales were collected in order to study or simply to admire and this photograph by Nicholas Caire, a professional photographer active in Victoria and South Australia was his most published image and was also used as the basis for engravings.

Fairy scene at the Landslip, Blacks’ Spur is on display with over 650 historical and modern works only until 11 October in ‘The Photograph and Australia’ exhibition.