In an era of limitless digital images, it’s easy to forget it wasn’t so long ago that photographs were an altogether rarer form of historical documentation.
It’s therefore a pleasant surprise for historians when a previously-undiscovered set of images from the turn of the twentieth century turn up out of the blue. But fortunately for inner west history buffs, that’s exactly the circumstances which have led to ‘Leichhardt Jubilee Pressed’ – an exhibition of prints showing turn-of-the-century life in the suburb. Remarkably, the display has been printed from original blocks, which are nearly a century old.
From images of an eerily vacant Norton Street, to boners and cutters at work, school children whose descendants may still live locally, and newly-built schools and churches that still stand today, the prints offer an enthralling insight into life from 1851-1921.
The original blocks from the 1921 publication ‘Jubilee History of Leichhardt’ have been unearthed from the library archives, and brought back to life for their 90th birthday.
Master print press artists Bill and Genevieve Mosley, of Hill End Press, produced the images on a vintage Gordon Press, one of most famous and influential presses of the nineteenth century. The zinc blocks are derived from photographs taken by J.G. Parks, Council’s photographer in the 1920s.
Mayor Jamie Parker said the exhibition was a fascinating look at “who we are, and where we have come from.”
“These amazing prints have been out of sight and forgotten for 90 years,” he said. “Council staff had no idea what was on the zinc blocks until they had been unwrapped. It’s fascinating to see locations we recognise, but which somehow look so different in their setting of almost 100 years ago.”
The free exhibition wraps up on Saturday, April 30.