Collection Online

No title (Group of Koori men)
(c. 1847)

daguerreotype, leather, wood, velvet, brass
(7.5 × 6.5 cm) (image) 9.2 × 7.9 × 1.7 cm (case) (closed)
Place/s of Execution
Melbourne, Victoria
Accession Number
Australian Photography
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from Admission Funds, 1983
Gallery location
Not on display
About the work

In 1847, the English-born photographer Douglas Kilburn opened Melbourne’s first commercial photographic studio. As a way of attracting attention to his business he took at least eight daguerreotypes of Aboriginal people from the area around Melbourne. These daguerreotypes, of which the gallery owns three, are the earliest surviving photographs of Australia’s Indigenous people and are a highlight of our collection.

Although Kilburn intended the images as ethnographic studies rather than individual portraits, his unnamed sitters project a proud and dignified presence. Today, early photographs such as these have become important as signs of survival and continuity to Aboriginal people, particularly artists, who often make reference to them in their own works.