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Fairy scene at the Landslip, Blacks' Spur
(c. 1878)

albumen silver photograph
28.2 × 22.4 cm
Place/s of Execution
Accession Number
Australian Photography
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1994
Gallery location
Not on display
About the work

Nicholas Caire specialised in photographing picturesque aspects of the Victorian landscape. His most celebrated photograph is Fairy scene at the Landslip, Blacks’ Spur 1878 that shows a man to the right of the image dwarfed by the giant tree ferns that surround him.

Tree ferns exerted a powerful fascination for nineteenth-century viewers – the word 'pteridomania' was specifically coined at the time to describe a passion for these plants. Ferns were of interest as exotic reminders of the prehistory of the planet and for the decorative appeal of their graceful flowing form.

While the contemplation of nature through art satisfied the romantic tastes of the nineteenth-century viewer, most people also believed that the land held essential resources that must be used to build a modern nation. ‘Preservationists’, including Nicholas Caire, advocated the informed, selective use of natural resources to preserve sites of significant natural beauty for general enjoyment.