Pittsworth – 7 pm, February 24, 2022

Brisbane – May 27 – June 12, 2022

The Brisbane exhibition opens to the public; Thursday-Friday 1 pm – 6 pm, Saturday-Sunday 11 am – 4 pm

 

Like a number of other prolific photographers of his era, Herbert Pardey moved around a lot. That means he left collections of photos and negatives behind in the places where he worked. As those caches of material have been discovered, an effort has begun to piece together his career and also to determine how much of the material is his work, and how much the work of others.

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PHJ-CL2_00916R interior of studio

From the Curator...

When I lifted the first glass plate from the dirt floor of the cowshed, the excitement was overwhelming. With the light of a candle, I could see the image of Britannia in her armour holding a trident, and I knew that I wasn’t dealing with an average collection of stereotyped portraits that were so common for the period.

These dry glass plates, around 1000, gave away their age as well as the Edwardian fashions and the war portraits. The dates became more precise, being between 1907 and 1917. The photographer’s name, Herbert John Pardey, remained a mystery a little longer.

It is important to remember that his clientele was limited by the distance covered by horse and cart and that a generalist covered everything from weddings to funerals, community events to social life, and commercial to state contracts. Pittsworth was his territory.

Herbert’s vision is as interesting as it is varied. There are, of course, the bread and butter shots and the standard weddings taken by all country photographers, but his successful quest was to expand his visual language into a larger narrative. His sense of humour is ever-present and his approach to humanity obviously was appreciated in the main street of Pittsworth.

He responded to his personal need to escape routine, a common issue for the practising professional. One needs to try new avenues, listen to inner voices, and explore the constraints of a 7×5 frame. It is the challenge to visualise the inner struggles of the sitter, express the pathos of country life and represent the spirit of the land. He did this in many ways; by framing an image within its negative space, with the choice of subject and expressions and by using inner tensions, such as contrast and polarities.

Well before the photographic language was codified, Herbert was searching for his own. Importantly, he had control over the shutter release which was his moment to express what he saw and understood.

In exhibitions, one often looks for the reflections of other photographers. As it comes to mind, you might find hints of J.H. Lartigue, but also devoid of plagiarism, the more confronting style of Richard Avedon’s “The American West” series, whereby using a white background, he forces the viewer to consider the emotions of his sitter. We had the same intentions and, without prejudice, have enlarged prints beyond their historical limitations.

Herbert John Pardey well deserves the recognition of a show and The Maud Street Photo Gallery is proud to host the exhibition.

Eric Victor

A Glass Plates Negatives Restoration Project realised...

“In the early 1980s, David Seeto and I visited the Lindenberg car collection in Pittsworth.

Joyce Lindenberg told us that her husband was a photographer and showed us one of his cameras. She sent us to the back of an old shed . . . a former darkroom with an earthen floor covered with glass plates. As there was no electricity, we collected the plates by candlelight.

We took about 500 glass plates back to Brisbane. There was an urgent need to proof and to protect the glass plates. The process revealed the extent and quality of the collection.

It felt important, then and now, that the work of a fellow photographer should be preserved and brought to public attention. With a busy studio, I had little chance to do anything with them, but promised myself that once retired I would look at them.

Since Joyce Lindenberg had given us the plates, we believed wrongly for years that her husband was the man behind the camera. In fact, the photographer was Herbert John Pardey who rented space from the Lindenbergs.

Born in Hackney, England, in 1875, Pardey arrived in Victoria in 1895. He worked as a jackaroo before establishing a photographic business in Dungog, New South Wales. In 1900, he married Susan Crowell in Maitland and had two daughters. Alma passed away before her second birthday. Eileen was born in 1902.

Pardey’s poor health had already been the reason for his emigration and in 1907 he decided to move to Queensland for a climate more suited to his health. He chose Pittsworth and established his photography business there until 1917. The nature of country town photographer’s business was very broad. He was the recorder of the social and news events, weddings and portraits of the area. Pardey also did commercial work, including a contract to record the progress of the Millmerran-Pittsworth rail line.

Pardey shows a marked sense of originality when compared with other country photographers of the period. His strong visual language distinguished him from the stereotyped formality of the period and makes his images interesting and enjoyable.

This book contains personal choice of images with which I connect. The synchronicity goes further as one of the images is from a house and farm called Sunnyside in Southbrook and shows my wife, Katherine’s Grandmother and Great-Aunt, their parents, and the property.

Susan and Herbert Pardey had two sons in Pittsworth, George and Leonard.The family moved to Sydney in 1918. Herbert worked there for only 18 months with Harringtons Limited, a branch of Kodak. As his son, George said: “He was always wanted to be his own boss.” Herbert bought a studio in Cowra in 1920 and ran it until his death at the age of 57 in 1932. Eileen, George, and Leonard continued the business until the late 1980’s.

The Pittsworth collection has, after further research, expanded to 1050 glass plates, and has been digitised and shared.”

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