A portrait


This endearing portrait was taken in the U.S. in 1916 and shows a young man of 27. His unkempt hair, beard stubble and collarless shirt suggest he might be a recent immigrant from Europe, travelling from Italy or Russia in steerage and destined for a hard life in New York’s sweatshops. Lewis Hine might have taken the picture, as he did of many immigrants at Ellis Island.

But he didn’t. The portrait shows Charlie Chaplin the year of his big success with hit films including The Pawnshop, The Rink and One A.M. In 1916 he signed a contract with the Mutual corporation for $670,000 making him one of the highest paid people in the world. A large sum today, it was a king’s ransom 100 years ago. He had been in Hollywood for only two years.

Now look again at the portrait. Has it changed?


Ebay camera 9


Here’s a unique camera from the 1950s. The Tessina was manufactured in Switzerland from 1957 until the 1990s. The camera used 35mm film cut and reloaded into special cassettes. Each frame was 14x21mm, about one third of a full-frame 35mm.

It’s a twin-lens reflex, just like a Mamiya or Rolleiflex, but only a couple of inches in size. It’s so small it could fit on your wrist, and there was even a special wrist strap accessory. Presumably you covered it with your sleeve and only raised it to your eye when ready to shoot. Shades of Dick Tracy.

You looked down onto the tiny ground glass, or use the eye-level finder. Because the lens image is reflected onto the film via a mirror you have to print the negative through the back.

Are you getting the picture that this is a strange little camera? There is even a rumour that one of the Watergate ‘plumbers’ was arrested with a Tessina, so this tiny camera may have contributed to the fall of US president Richard Nixon.

You can check the Tessina on ebay. There are eight for sale at the moment.




Invitation to Random, a group exhibition of works that explore repurposed materials. The exhibition opens at Trocadero Art Space Footscray and runs from September 25 to October 12.

My work is the parody project The Advertiser’s Art, a collection of magazine ads that reference art. The ads have been torn out of popular magazines and newspapers and placed in cheap frames. They mock the pretensions of advertisers who use clumsy art references. They also indicate common ideas about art, the usual clichés Van Gogh’s ear etc. But some ads are more sophisticated and show wit in using art ideas in a humorous way. I would count this Cubism ad amongst those.



My new Cartes-de-Visite


 Camille Silvy, Carte-de-Visite of Princess Leiningen,1860

At the photography market at Box Hill Town Hall last Sunday I bought these two cartes-de-visite from the 1860s. Carte-de-visites were ‘visiting card’ photographs circulated in their millions from 1860, one of the great innovations in photography.

The ‘Cartomania’ craze was a social phenomenon of widespread popularity during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Small portraits of approximately the same size as a standard visiting card were exchanged between friends and family members and assembled into albums, many of which were expensively and lavishly decorated. These were prominently placed within the home, where visitors could peruse the contents and assess the calibre of the host’s social connections (19thcenturyphotos.com)

The one above is Princess Leiningen, photographed by Camille Silvy in 1860. I was thrilled to be buying a print by Camille Silvy, one of the great names of early photography. And they are real silver prints, made on albumen paper, not mass-printed in a printing press. How much did I pay? …$10.

And who is Princess Leiningen? Marie of Baden was the second daughter and seventh child of Leopold, from 1832 Grand-Duke of Baden, and his wife, Sophie of Sweden. On 11 September 1858 she married Ernst, 4th Prince of Leiningen, the son of Queen Victoria’s half-brother.  (19thcenturyphotos.com). Married to the son of Queen Victoria’s half-brother! Was that her only claim to celebrity?

The other Carte-de-Visite is of John Leech (1817-1864), an lllustrator and caricaturist which is signified by the Venus de Milo statuette beside him. Leech was an illustrator in the popular press and in books, including those by Charles Dickens. Like the Princess, he presents himself as a classic figure of the Victorian age.


 Camille Silvy, Carte-de-Visite of John Leech, photographed on 16 July 1861



At Readers Feast


Greg Neville, at Readers Feast bookshop, 2013

A former student of mine, Margot Sharman, has a permanent exhibition of her photographs at Readers Feast bookshop in Collins Street. Her images of hands and books were in the group exhibition Bound by the Book last year where I showed my Fatal Dream piece. The proprieter Mary Dalmau thought they would be perfect for the walls of her shop in the prestigious Georges Building.


Ebay camera no. 8


Deardorff Commercial Series Camera Stand and 11X14 Camera

Ebay has a very unusual package for sale, an ultra large format studio camera with its own studio stand. The seller says the system was the workhorse camera for the Sears and Roebuck catalog company in Chicago. That’s where Deardorff cameras were made, and made to last. The price is $3640, apparently without a lens, but still a bargain. Unfortunately it’s too heavy and cumbersome for the seller to pack and ship so if you really want it, you’ll need to pick it up from Kansas. That’s a long trip, but a set up like this could change your life!


The Keepsake


Greg Neville, The Keepsake, 2013

The Keepsake is an old book found in a secondhand bookshop, published in 1830. It contains stories, memoirs and poems plus fifteen engravings. After 183  years, the book is suffering from old age, a veil of decay from foxing and chemical stains. The tissue interleaves create a softening and distancing effect, obscuring the engraving as though looking back through time.