New MAC Exhibition Photographic History of Mildura’s Formative Years

The Mildura Arts Center (MAC) is currently presenting to the public what is arguably one of the most comprehensive photographic records of Mildura’s iconic formative years, when the Chaffey brothers established the district as an irrigation settlement.

German photographer John William (JW) Lindt was commissioned to come to Sunraysia in the late 1880s to document the work of the Chaffey brothers, which would then help visually promote the Mildura Irrigation Colony.

The resulting collection of photographs, taken in 1889, offer a breathtaking glimpse of what life was like in the early years after our city was settled, encompassing everything from paddle steamers on the Murray River, shops lining the streets unsealed to hard-working locals at their jobs.

Councilor for Arts, Culture and Heritage Helen Healy said the stunning collection of photographs currently on display came to the MAC via Doris Kilburn, the daughter of WB Chaffey’s commercial secretary, who came into possession of the Lindt glass slides.

Miss Kilburn donated the slides to the MAC in 1983, where they have remained an important part of the MAC’s collection.

The current exhibition, JW Lindt in Sunraysia, is the first time in many years that the slides have been on public display.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to get a real sense of what our region was like during its founding years after colonization,” said Cr Healy.

“It allows us to step back in time and it’s really an important part of the visual history of our municipality.

Cr Healy explained that before the slides could be exhibited, they required delicate conversational work.

“As the slides had been stored in the original metal box in which they had been donated to the Mildura Arts Centre, they required specialist treatment to clean and repair them before they could be returned and exhibited”, she said.

LW Lindt in Sunraysia will remain on display in Gallery 5 at the MAC until Sunday, October 16.

John William Lindt background

John William (JW) Lindt was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1845. He boarded a Danish ship at age 17 and sailed to Australia, choosing to disembark at Brisbane, from where he continued to travel to Queensland before settling in New South Wales.

His second job after arriving in Australia was in a photography studio, where the majority of his early work was created. This studio was in Grafton, New South Wales, where his well-known images of local indigenous people were taken between 1868 and 1876.

Working at the studio and owning the business allowed him to establish his independence and social flexibility, giving him the opportunity to leave Grafton and move to Melbourne, after which he was assigned to Mildura to document the work of the Chaffey Brothers.

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Michael E. Marquez