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Luke and Nacoya, 2016 by Daniel Sponiar

It is now a little more than 178 years since the French Academy of Sciences was made aware of the invention of the daguerreotype process. That announcement was made in Paris on 7 January 1839 (a Monday). Accurate news of the invention was published in the Australasian Chronicle in Sydney in August of the same year. This was only forty years before the birth of Einstein. Notwithstanding earlier and, indeed, other concurrent mechanical fixed-image light-exposure experiments taking place on both sides of the English Channel, the date of January 1839 has long been regarded as the birthday of photography. Set against the broad horizon of history the period that has elapsed since then is relatively brief, yet it is almost impossible for us to imagine a world without photographs.


In the earliest stages of the Great War, before British casualties began to assume their calamitous scale, measures were taken to meet the needs of imperial troops, above all ordinary soldiers of the Indian army who were wounded in France. For this purpose the Royal Pavilion in Brighton was turned into a military hospital, and arrangements made there to accommodate the different dietary and other requirements of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim patients.

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles, 1824 by James Thomson

I have just finished reading Victoria Glendinning’s excellent recent biography, Raffles and the Golden Opportunity (2012). By a strange coincidence, having lately read James Pope-Hennessy’s Verandah (1964), I was struck by how very alike the two subjects were: Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir John Pope-Hennessy were both self-made and limitlessly ambitious...

Angkor Wat

Nothing quite prepares the first-time visitor to Cambodia for the scale and grandeur of the monuments of the ancient Khmer civilisation of Angkor—certainly the largest pre-industrial city on earth. The enclosure of Angkor Wat, for example, is five times larger than the Vatican City. Its moat measures more than a kilometre square. Yet the smaller temples, tucked away in the jungle at the end of little dirt roads, tend to be the most beautiful.


Reflections on portraiture

'Postcards' are reflections on portraiture by Portrait Gallery Director, Angus Trumble, and others.