Annette Hamilton's Image Field

Photographs from a never-still life

Olden Days on the Hawkesbury River

There is a treasure-trove of old family photographs taken on the river, which I didn’t know about before my parents died. They were taken in the period 1930-1950s and in many cases we don’t know who took them, with what camera, or even who many of the people are. It’s amazing that they survived at all. Prints and negatives deteriorate in damp and hot conditions. The intense blue quality of some of the pictures however is the result of the way they were copied more recently. The originals are in the familiar slightly faded black and white.

Cookshed 1
The cook shed: Uncle Stan on the left, Uncle Cecil on the right.  Nobody knows why Stan was wearing a suit and tie that day.
ghostly presence
Haunted images: I love this vague and almost unreadable image. I tried doing it as a monochrome painting but couldn’t capture it.
Old House 1
The old house
On the verandah 1
On the verandah: my grandmother at right rear
prawning 1
Prawning in the bay, 1930s.


Dead and Gone: The Arnold family and friends, 1932 and 1933.

The only survivor today (2019) is Noel Arnold, my step-brother, pictured below as a boy of two/three. My father took this picture (which is why he is not in it).


In this picture of Uncle Cyril’s wedding day, my father appears carrying his son Noel. His mother Augusta stands near him. My other step-brother John is in his mother’s arms. He was born in 1933. Many of the guests were unrecorded.



Photographs capture past time, we engage with lost places and moments. It was miraculous to obtain the family photographs above with the names of so many written in them. Among the thousands of photographs taken in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when photography first became possible for ordinary people, many of their subjects are and always will be unidentified. Archives around Australia are full of images taken in unknown places by unknown photographers. In the course of looking for images of the Hawkesbury River which could be used for a series of monochrome paintings, I came across these mysterious photos taken on the upper Hawkesbury at some unknown time. Who were these men? Who took the photos? The upper picture seems to have been taken in one of the many creeks along the river – from another boat. The lower one was probably taken from a high bank above the stream. I have tried to identify the sources, without any success. The wooden rowboats look almost exactly the same as the ones my family built.



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