At the beginning of the 1890s, the Kew businessman and Town Councillor, Henry Kellett, commissioned J.F.C. Farquhar to photograph scenes of Kew. These scenes included panoramas as well as pastoral scenes. The resulting set of twelve photographs was assembled in an album, Kew Where We Live, from which customers could select images for purchase.The preamble to the album describes that the photographs used the ‘argentic bromide’ process, now more commonly known as the gelatine silver process. This form of dry plate photography allowed for the negatives to be kept for weeks before processing, hence its value in landscape photography. The resulting images were considered to be finely grained and everlasting. Evidence of the success of Henry Kellett’s venture can be seen today, in that some of the photographs are held in national collections.
It is believed that the Kew Historical Society’s copy of the Kellett album is unique and that the photographs in the book were the first copies taken from the original plates. It is the first and most important series of images produced about Kew. The individual images have proved essential in identifying buildings and places of heritage value in the district.
Hyde Park is now a small recreation reserve bordered by Willsmere and Kilby Roads and White Avenue. In 1982, Hyde Park was cut off from the Yarra River by the construction of the Eastern Freeway. The building of the latter was to transform the natural landscape, including the Yarra, as well as Hyde Park. The construction of the Freeway makes it difficult to view the scene with the photographer’s eye. Today’s Hyde Park is located on land purchased in 1847 by John Cowell, and in 1851 Catherine Cowell, yet the scene selected by the photographer may well have been located on farmland owned by the Wills family. Farquhar’s point-of-view emphasises both the pastoral and recreational elements of the scene: the grazing cows, three boys, and in the distance two figures, seated on the bank with a parasol. By 1891, an environmental consequence of human activity, including farming, was deforestation, leading to the erosion of the south bank of the Yarra. In contrast, the land on the Alphington side of the river in 1891 included remnant bushland.
Inscriptions & markings
The Yarra in Hyde Park