Leading ladies: Snjez Cosic, Curator of the Gold Museum with a photographic montage of Ballarat pioneers’ wives. Photo: EDWINA WILLIAMS

Strike a Pose

August 14, 2019 BY

THE Gold Museum launched their new exhibition on Saturday, Pose, showcasing Ballarat’s photographic history and unique portraits.

Inspired by the upcoming Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Curator, Snjez Cosic said the museum is always looking for ways to connect to community programs.

“Foto Biennale is so successful and attracts such great retention and visitorship. We thought this was a perfect opportunity to tie in with that, given the extensive collection of photographs we have,” she said.

“This is probably one of the first times we’re really able to showcase the history of Ballarat’s photographic past and really celebrate it. The Foto Biennale has a really great contemporary focus on its works so we thought it would be really nice to offer a historical view.”

Artefacts on display are all original, dating back to the 1870s, including Bardwell’s Royal Studio Photographic Montage, celebrity postcards, Wadawurrung portraits, opalotypes and cameras, from the 19th century Box Brownie to the 21st century smartphone.

“You really see the development of photographic technology over that period.”

But Ms Cosic said a “key piece” is a montage of the Women Pioneers of Ballarat.

“This was done, we believe, between the 1870s and 1890s. Ballarat was celebrating its settlement and they did a photographic montage of all the leading male pioneers of the city, celebrated them and acknowledged their contributions,” she said.

“As an aside, they put together this montage of the wives of the pioneers. This montage, when it first came out, it acknowledged these women as simply being the wives of the male pioneers. What our research has found is that these women were very active citizens in their own right.

“They were mothers, they looked after their children while their husbands worked, other women ran businesses, particularly if their husband had passed away or moved on, sometimes managing multiple businesses at the same time.”

These women were active in community groups, and by the First World War, many were raising money for local soldiers returning or going back to serve.

“We’re still working on finding out more about these women, so that’s an ongoing research project for us,” Ms Cosic said. “It’s a really special piece because of all that wealth of material we’re finding about these women.”

The portraiture styles of local photographic studios including Richards and Co, Thomas Foster Chuck and Yeoman and Co/Eden Studios are celebrated throughout the two-room exhibition.

“We’ve got pieces from Richards and Co that date up until the 1950s and 60s, and what we’re hoping is people get a bit nostalgic and think about their own experiences of taking photos for their wedding, confirmation or deb ball,” Ms Cosic said.

“It’s a great way to get people engaged through their own personal memories.”

Visitors have an opportunity to step in front of the camera to strike their own pose against two different backgrounds.

“What really stood out from the collection was the amazing poses people were doing in Ballarat’s photographic studios, so we thought we’d pull out a really striking photograph, something fun and entertaining, and invite people to try on a beautiful Edwardian hat and strike your best pose like you’re in a 19th century studio,” Ms Cosic said.

Pose will run until March next year.