Holidaying at Fingal in 1913
WELCOME to the second edition of our new weekly column Talking History, supplied by staff at the Tweed Regional Museum. This is part two in our series on early 20th century photographers working in the Tweed, with the work of Douglas Solomons profiled today.
SOLOMONS carried his camera around the Tweed, often on horseback, to record the lives of neighbouring selectors and their families as they toiled in tough terrain to carve out a living. He was the son of Louis Solomons, a keen amateur photographer who processed his own photographs, often mounted in pairs to view in 3D. The museum holds many of these 3D images, from both Louis and Douglas Solomons.
Quality cameras of the era were large and heavy and usually had bellows that could be folded into the case to save space when not in use. The sheer expense and size of a whole plate camera meant they were not common. Glass plates were often used as they were more stable in extreme conditions, particularly in the damp and heat of the Northern Rivers.
Douglas Samuel Solomons signed and dated his images DSS and often sent them to friends as Christmas cards and mementos of gatherings in the bush and holiday camping trips.
Douglas enlisted in the army in 1916 and was posted to France, where he was shot in the back on August 11, 1918, resulting in paraplegia. He returned to Australia and married Dorothy Caswell of Murwillumbah. However, Douglas spent much of the rest of his life in a military hospital in Brisbane, where he died in 1934.
The two images shown here tell us much about the lives of Douglas and his family. In the first one, Amongst the ruins of Kunghur Castle, 1912, we see a family despondent at the loss of their home.
Iris and Kenneth Solomons stand with an unknown youth in the ruins of their camp. Evidence of their daily life can be seen in the baking tray and frying pan still hanging on poles.
The remains of their work tools are also visible, parts of a springboard and saws twisted from the heat. And a link to the photographer himself; Douglas' camera bag visible at the front left of the image. In viewing this image we are reminded of what early settlers had to endure, far from help, and the resilience needed for a life on the land.
The second image, Leaving Camp, 1913, shows members of the Solomons family leaving Fingal Head (then known as The Caves) after their annual month-long holiday.
The family are in Harry Hatton's boats, which were used to transport cream to the butter factories, as well as goods and passengers between Mur'bah and Tweed Heads. Their tent can be seen in the larger boat, rolled up and tied with rope.
The family were obviously very tolerant of Douglas' photography passion as amongst the hustle and bustle of getting the boats loaded and passengers organised, they took the time to pose for him, with one man even reclining on the roof of the boat.
* Next week, in Part 3 of the series, we feature the work of Angus McNeil.