Thornthwaite: Joseph and Ernest Docker’s melancholic wilderness

Peck, Julia ORCID: 0000-0001-5134-2471 (2012) Thornthwaite: Joseph and Ernest Docker’s melancholic wilderness. In: Imaging Nature II:, 20-22 June 2012, Tarraleah, Tasmania, Australia. (Unpublished)

Text (This is an unpublished conference paper deposited here by permission of the author. Intellectual property rights of Julia Peck)
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Joseph and Ernest Docker made photographs of their pastoral property, Thornthwaite, near Scone, between 1860 and 1869. Their small, delicate photographs are presented in album format and depict the homestead from different angles and from varying degrees of distance. The photographs show the cleared land, a garden, river scenery and the wider environment, including the Liverpool Ranges to the north. In addition to the circulatory pattern of photographing the homestead the album of photographs situates Thornthwaite within the wider Australian environment and wilderness scenery, especially from North America. This paper will argue that the album of photographs creates Thornthwaite as a wilderness, despite signs of settlement. The Dockers, moreover, choose a melancholic rather than optimistic tone for their photographs, further enhancing the perception of the land as isolated and empty. Disavowing the Indigenous understanding of the land (including their prior ownership, cultural interaction and continued presence within the landscape) the photographs create Thornthwaite as a romanticised, nostalgic and isolated wilderness space. Indeed, later in his life, Ernest Docker reproduced a photograph of a river scene taken on Thornthwaite with the title Evenings Shadows, a possible reference to Stephen Johnstone’s painting. Although the paradigm of melancholia has been significant within Australian literature and painting it is subject to little commentary in relation to photographs. Using Ian McLean’s proposition of melancholia as denial of Indigenous heritage, this paper will argue that the Dockers’ photographs work to overcome the horror of dispossession. Whilst the photographs could be seen as a tacit acknowledgement of colonial guilt, Ernest Docker took a nostalgic pleasure in seeing Thornthwaite as melancholic, troubling a possible redemptive interpretation of the images.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Weird melancholy, Joseph Docker, Ernest Docker, Thornthwaite, Landscape Photography, Amateur Photography
Related URLs:
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DU Oceania (South Seas)
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Creative Arts
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Julia Peck
Date Deposited: 30 Mar 2016 10:20
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 09:23

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