Panoramic photographs have been around since the mid years of the 19th century when photographers strived to produce the arc of a wide vista in a single image. 1 The developments around the turn of the century allowed these images to be taken with a single piece of film, rather than the challenges and skill required for glass plate juggling. 

We are fortunate to have a range of panoramas in our Pictures collection – a notable example is the work of Robert (Vere) Scott. (1877-1940).  His works came to the library with the Victorian Patent Office Copyright Collection (VPOCC) in 1908. Under the Victorian Copyright Acts of 1869 and 1890 a copy of an illustration could be registered for copyright protection during the years 1870 to 1906.  The images in this large collection varies – from these majestic panoramic images, to labels such as for Superior raspberry vinegar, registered by Charles Troedel.  

From early 1900 Scott lived in Port Pirie, running a photography studio, and travelling further afield on photographic missions – he was active in Victoria around 1903-1906. 

Many of Scott’s images utilise the power of moonlight to deliver an atmosphere of shadow and mystery. Combined with the focal point of light, the scale and expanse of the image draws us in to feel surrounded by the scene. 

Panorama and moonlight effect, Melbourne, 1905; H42.614

Scott’s images of Melbourne streetscapes includes this of the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Street, with the Melbourne Post Office on the left and the domed spire of the Town Hall in the centre of the image. 

Port Melbourne, from King and Flinders Streets, 1900-1906; H96.160/922

The condition of some of these images is sadly not great – they were copies for administrative purposes – so often folded to fit a into a file, or stuck into scrapbooks. Even so, we get a sense of the day from this image of Flemington racecourse in 1905.

Flemington lawn, circa 1906; H96.160/928

This elevated view, accentuates the curve of the course and the drama of the day.  The distortion that the camera can bring to images as the distance between the lense and the object changes can accentuate the sweep and drama captured by the image.

Melbourne Cup, Flemington, 1906, won by Poseidon; H96.160/549

In his Victorian visits, Scott traveled to capture regional and rural views. Lake Colac, one of the large lakes of Victoria’s volcanic plain, was a scene of varied community activity – boating, fishing and the annual Colac Regatta, first held in 1879. In 1907, the Colac Herald anticipated that

the Colac Regatta on New Year’s Day should prove to be one of the finest events ever witnessed in Colac. The entries for the rowing and yachting are far and way the largest ever received, and some magnificent contests should be witnessed by the large as assemblage expected to visit the regatta, especially the 8-oared race, for which eight crews will compete, and the open yacht race, for which 17 yachts have been entered.

The mood here, though, is far from festive, and captures the expanse of the lake and surrounding landscape.

Lake Colac, 1905; H96.160/1148

A view down Murray Street, Colac with George Scott stores – draper, milliner on the right, and the post office opposite.

Colac street scenes, 1905; H96.160/1152

Bendigo grew apace on the back of a rich gold mining era and Scott portrays a relaxed and prosperous city, transformed from the chaos of the workings. The Queen Victoria Gardens and Rosalind Park abuts the Post Office and Law Courts, and the poppet head from the Garden Gully United Mine – behind the water fountain – has been relocated to the top of Camp Hill Lookout.

Pall Mall and Charing Cross, Bendigo, 1905; H96.160/1177

Lake Weeroona in Bendigo, on a full moon evening, so bright it could be daylight. The Bendigo advertiser reported on the lake opening in 1879:

It is not the largest lake in the world, nor are its waters the deepest or the most, pellucid. Nevertheless, as a new creation it forms an admirable addition to the water system of this naturally dry and arid district. The utilization of the old diggings below the city for the purposes of a reservoir is a work which reflects great credit on the Council, and will prove a boon to the citizens, not only in a recreative, but also in a sanitary point of view.
Whatever may be its imperfections, Weeroona supplies a want that has been greatly felt, and every year its usefulness will be more and more appreciated. The grounds surrounding it have been laid out with great taste, and as the plants and trees grow up, they will form a delightful place of resort.

Moonlight, Lake Weeroona, Bendigo, 1905; H96.160/1174

Ferntree Gully, 40km to the east of Melbourne GPO was a popular excursion destination from the 1870’s – people drawn to the forests of towering mountain ash and fern filled gullies.

Ferntree Gully, 1905; H96.160/1128

Scott and his family moved to Kalgoorlie in 1907, his photographs of sporting events and community life appearing regularly in the local press. Engaged to document the survey expedition for the Transcontinental Express – the writer in the Kalgoorlie Western Argus notes that “Mr. Scott had quite a collection of photographic appliances. When he got tired of one instrument, he used another, and when we thought he was at length going to give us a rest he produced a panoramic camera. and new poses and new groups became the order of the day.” (7 July 1908, p 19)
The Kalgoorlie Sun encouraged people to “Stop and look at Vere Scott’s group enlargements— works of photographic art. (6 June 1909, p 7) 

The Scott family left Australia in 1918, for the United States, with Scott continuing his photographic career in San Francisco – under the name Rovere Scott. Some of his American photographs are at the California Historical Society digital archive and University of California at Berkeley

More to explore 

Out of Sight R. Vere Scott and R. P. Moore: Forgotten Federation-Era Panoramic Photographers Gael Newton. 
Robert Vere Scott 
Photographic panoramas Josef Lebovic, 2011. 
A brief history of panoramic photography 
Picture collection research guide 
Robert Scott images 
Blog posts on photography in the State Library collections. 

References

  1. von Marten, Friedrich, ‘Megaskop Panoramic Camera’ (patent for first panoramic camera), ca. 1854, 302033, National Museum for American History.

This article has 5 comments

  1. Dear Jane

    It is wonderful to see the quite extensive career of Robert Vere Scott being rediscovered. I have not found a death certificate for Robert Vere Scott but he was still alive in 1942 for his WWII US draft card but no trace of him after that year.

    Gael Newton

    • Dear Gael – thankyou for your comment – his work is wonderful, and a fascinating and highly mobile career too. We are very lucky to have the works that we do. Your work on Scott and Moore, was so interesting to read too!
      Jane

  2. Dear Jane
    I have just purchased a picture by Robert Vere Scott. It is called Mushroom Rock Rottnest WA
    It is signed R Vere Scott. It is framed by R.S. Exton & Co Ltd.
    I dont know if what I have is an original or not. I’ve not been able to find this specific picture anywhere on the internet. I’m hoping you will be able to help me.
    Kind Regards
    Mark

    • Hello Mark – congratulations on finding a photograph to buy. Scott seemed to spend most of his time in WA at Kalgoorlie from the subjects of his photgraphs, he did travel widely. Unfortunately, his archive has never been located. I haven’t been able to find mention of any trips to Rottnest Island by him, on Trove.
      There are photographs of Perth, on Trove, and these are also held by the State Library of WA: Panoramic views of Perth from Kings Park and the Observatory Tower.
      I did find a mention of a Vere Scott sailing from Fremantle to Sydney in 1913 – there are New Zealand photographs from roughly this date – so possibly Rottnest was a side trip then. All the above is just speculation I am afraid!
      There is a good article on Wikipedia (you may already have found that) about him that could give you more avenues to pursue: Robert Vere Scott
      The framer is interesting – R.S. Exton and Co were a Brisbane firm – here is a heritage listing on their building which gives background on the firm: Former RS Exton and Co Building (Part)
      Going on dates for images in the State Library of Queensland catalogue – Scott was in Brisbane c.1906 and 1915.
      Once conditions permit, you could try taking your photograph to a conservator to get some idea of its age.
      I do hope that the above is of some assistance.

  3. Hi Jane
    Thank you so much for responding. I’m very excited for my find. I found it at a second hand store. When I looked at it I told my partner it must be an original considering the age of the frame. I would be more than happy to send you images of my find. If you would like some images just send me an email. I am curious as I’m sure most people would be in my situation as to the approximate value of his pictures. Not that I’m looking to sell but I’m curious.
    Reading your message has increased my excitement of my find. I would love to learn more about it. The Wikipedia information was very helpful. Thank you.
    Kindest Regards
    Mark

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Terms & Conditions