A vintage full-plate albumen paper photograph (163 × 220 mm) of a group of fourteen Ngarrindjeri [Narrinyeri] men at the graveside of the Reverend George Taplin at Point McLeay, South Australia. Captain Samuel White SWEET.

A vintage full-plate albumen paper photograph (163 × 220 mm) of a group of fourteen Ngarrindjeri [Narrinyeri] men at the graveside of the Reverend George Taplin at Point McLeay, South Australia

George Taplin (1831-1879), missionary and teacher, began his work with the Ngarrindjeri in April 1859; the 'site he chose for a settlement on the shores of Lake Alexandrina was a traditional camping ground called Raukkan (The Ancient Way), known to Europeans as Point McLeay.... Keenly interested in Ngarrindjeri culture and society, he learned their language, used it in preaching, and translated and published Bible tracts. He published invaluable anthropological studies which were much superior to contemporary work on South Australian Aboriginals.... Despite his sympathy with the people and their traditions, Taplin adhered to the contemporary view that Christianity and Europeanization should be adopted and Ngarrindjeri civilization abandoned; as a result he assisted in undermining their government and social structure, further weakened traditional discipline and morale within the confederacy and provoked strong opposition from conservative tribal members. But they had been dispossessed and persecuted before his arrival, and by helping them become literate and numerate and to acquire trades he enabled them to survive and flourish briefly in European society. Today hundreds of their descendants remain in various districts of Australia; their durability can largely be attributed to Taplin. He was a compassionate Christian and a courageous fighter. Exhausted, he died of heart disease at Raukkan on 24 June 1879, survived by his wife and six children. He was buried in the village cemetery' ('Australian Dictionary of Biography').

The photograph shows the newly-installed headstone, which was 'Erected By The Aborigines'. It is on the original mount, captioned along the bottom margin 'S.W. Sweet, Photo., Flinders Street, Adelaide'. The acidic mount is discoloured, lightly stained and unevenly trimmed; the top right-hand corner is broken away, taking with it a small triangular piece of the photograph (approximately 10 × 45 mm of the sky); the sepia-toned print is a little speckled (confined mainly to the left and right margins), but overall it is a very arresting image.

The only example recorded in Trove, in the State Library of SA, appears to be of better quality, but it is not for sale, and more importantly, the photographer is not identified. This significant fact may now be added to the record.

Captain Samuel White Sweet (1825-1886), was a sea captain, surveyor and photographer: after he was censured when his ship ran aground in 1875, he 'retired from the sea, opened a photographic studio in Adelaide and concentrated on landscapes. With his horse-drawn dark room he travelled through South Australia taking hundreds of skilful pictures of the outback, stations and homesteads. The colony's foremost documentary photographer of the 1870s, in the early 1880s he was one of the first to use the new dry-plate process' ('Australian Dictionary of Biography').

Item #115751

Price: $750.00