Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Algernon Darge - photographer

Main Street, Lang Lang, c. 1930s, Photographer: Algernon Darge.

This great photo of Main Street in Lang Lang was taken by Algernon  Darge.  Mr Darge operated as a photographer from 1903 and his office was in the same building as The Herald and The Argus newspapers at 175 Collins Street.  His company  had the concession to take photographs at the Broadmeadows and Seymour army camps during the First World War. In the 1930s, the Australian War Memorial purchased the original glass negatives from Algernon Darge, along with the photographers' notebooks. The notebooks contain brief details, usually a surname or unit name, for each negative (Australian War Memorial website)

There is an interesting article by Joanne Smedley - 19,000 glass plate negatives: Algernon Darge’s First World War legacy*, which you can access here, about his World War One collection and the acquisition of it by the War Memorial. It was not a straight forward process and the War Memorial rejected early offers from Darge and it wasn't until 1938 that the collection arrived at the War Memorial.  It's  a great collection, it's a shame that it is very difficult finding photos on the War Memorial's less than user-friendly website.  Some of Mr Darge's photos were published in The Argus when they were reporting on the deaths of soldiers, such as the one below of Private A'Beckett.

Private Frank Leigh A'Beckett, a farmer from Upper Beaconsfiled, enlisted on February 10, 1915 and was Killed in Action at Gallipoli on August 7, 1915. His portrait by Darge appeared in The Argus on September 17, 1915. 

Algernon Darge was born Algernon Charles Gordon Sharp in 1878 and Joanna Smedley writes it was under the name of Algy Sharp that he initially operated “Darge.” Photographers. In 1913 he changed his name by Deed Poll to Algernon Darge, perhaps to overcome the confusion of a different surname to his studio’s name or possibly because he had become synonymous with his studio. 

Mr Darge died on January 24, 1941 and his ashes were scattered at Mount Matlock, near Woods Point. His obituary in The Argus of February 3, 1941 (read it here) described him as a pioneer of commercial photography in Melbourne and reported that his  collection includes many scenes of early Melbourne life, photographs of notable events in the city's history, of the first motor-cars to chug and rattle along its streets- Mr Darge himself was one of the first to use a car for commercial purposes. The obituary also reported on the contents of his will - he left his unique pictorial record of half a century of Melbourne's history, the carefully preserved collection of photographic plates to The Argus.....The residue of his estate is to be held in trust for 21 years, during which the income is to be used for the electrical engineering and mechanical engineering departments of the Melbourne Technical College, where Mr. Darge was formerly an assistant Instructor. The residue will become the property of the college after 21 years. Sadly, for us, according to Joanna Smedley, it seems his formal offer of negatives to The Argus was not taken up. 

The State Library of Victoria holds about 350 of his photographs, though not the one of Lang Lang and I can't find any other local photos in the collection.  

*Joanne Smedley - 19,000 glass plate negatives: Algernon Darge’s First World War legacy  Joanne Smedley. In: A Cultural Cacophony: Museum Perspectives and Projects Online Version (2016), pp. 165-175  Published by the NSW branch of Museums Galleries Australia

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