introduction to an entrepreneur, photographer and
and educated in Hamburg, Germany in 1838, Bernhardt
Otto Holtermann emigrated to Australia in 1858 at
the age of twenty. The mains reasons seem to have
been to join his brother in Sydney and to avoid being
up into the Prussian military service.
travelled to Melbourne arriving 7th August 1858. He
then boarded the City of Sydney for
Sydney. His brother had already moved west to the goldfields,
sought employment, which proved difficult due to his
lack of English. He took a job aboard ships operating
out of Sydney until he landed a job as a waiter at
the Hamburg Hotel in King Street, Sydney. He worked there
for about 5 months and during this time he met up with
a Polish miner named Ludwig Hugo Louis Beyers.
Beyers was enthusiastic about moving to the goldfields
and he convinced Holtermann
to join him.
and Holtermann formed a partnership and headed west
over the Blue Mountains to prospect for gold at
Tambaroora, near Hill End.
However, riches were not immediate resulting in more
partners being brought
in to bolster the finances and Holtermann
to seek employment through a variety of jobs. These
included ferryman, work in a hotel, and being the
owner of a hotel
for a year.
22nd February 1868, he and Beyers, married the sisters,
Harriett and Mary Emmett, from
a well known
It was about this time that Holtermann also met
up with his brother who joined them at their mine, The
Hope. Holtermann by now was the mine manager
as one of the major financial partners.
around September 1868, their mine cut into a vein full
Holtermann continued in the
while others took their finds and left. Their
success plus the success of others attracted
became committed to assisting the community,
with donations to the Temperance League and to assist
in establishing the local school. He became interested
in politics and was
nominated as a candidate for the
he published cautioning the people of Sydney
about some of the shady speculators, there was a strong
to undermine his election. He was not elected (this
time), missing out by just a few votes.
February 1872, the two senior partners, Beyers and
the Beyers and Holtermann
of Hope Gold Mining Company (Limited).
photo, with Holtermann to the right
March 1872, an advertisement appeared in
End and Tambaroora Times announcing the arrival
of the American
and Australasian Photographic Company (A&A).
Merlin had moved Hill End and announced that
they were offering a house-to-house
service to document all buildings
and their inhabitants. Besides taking studio portraits,
Merlin and his caravan travelled through
people, their houses, the public buildings
and of course the mines
and the miners. After several months in Hill
End, Merlin moved onto Gulgong and its neighbouring
was sometime around early 1872 that
photographer and writer, Beaufoy Merlin. Holtermann
was taken with Merlin's photographic craft and his
entrepreneurial approach. The meeting was
to have a significant effect
lives - it was
the coming together of a wealthy entrepreneur with
ambitions for international marketing of
his adopted country and a successful
and ambitious photographer entrepreneur who was
looking to expand his horizons and had the creative
energy to do so.
commissioned Merlin to prepare photographs for the
Holtermann International Travelling Exposition. Holtermann
wished to do more for his adopted country and he planned
to show the world the successes of the colony, and
through this attract people to immigrate from England
the countries of Europe.
remains a speculative subject as to how much each
partner had on initiating the idea of the Exposition.
Given Merlin's own entrepreneurial approach to business
and his ambitions for his photography, one can imagine
that the idea was in fact generated by the meeting
of their ideas and enthusiasms, with the delivery
very much dependant on Merlin's skill and on Holtermann's
wealth and connections.
was requested by Holtermann to deliver photographs
in the largest format possible. Holtermann therefore
equipped Merlin with caravans to carry the larger 10" X
12" plate camera and darkrooms. Previously Merlin
had used this larger format for some of his landscape
views around Sydney, while the studio portraits, the
goldfield and travelling photos were the smaller carte-de-visite
format. As he had done in Sydney, it seems that most
of the studio work was undertaken by his assistants,
most likely Clarke, which freed Merlin up to travel.
moved the studio operations back to the rapidly expanding
Hill End (on property owned by Holtermann) and set
to do the
usual A & A
style photographs, that
is to move
house to house around the town and district and to
offer studio portrait services. Once established, Merlin
was freed to travel and to work for his new patron.
successfully created a large composite panorama
the western slope
of Hawkins Hill (from what is now known
as Merlin's Lookout). This complicated task,
the making of the panorama, may have
first major photographic
entrepreneurial partnership undertaken by Holtermann
was drawn away from mining to follow entrepreneurial
ventures in photography and later in politics and the
promotion of Australia to the world. Holtermann often
appears, often to one side, in several of Merlin's
Gulgong and Hill End photographs.
works and profile did also bring on malicious attacks
from others, seemingly because he was different
(spoke with a German accent) and because he had entrepreneurial
ideas and had become such leading figure.
& A Studio, Hill End
2am on 19 October 1872, the last explosion
for that shift revealed the world’s largest specimen
of reef gold. Holtermann, being the manager,
was summoned and he realised
its importance and had the rock removed as
one piece. Eventually it was crushed to reveal
the precious metal,
but not before Merlin took a photograph of
the complete rock. This image was later combined
by Bayliss with another
of Holtermann to deliver the now famous Holtermann
image, with him standing proudly by his nugget.
the latter part of 1872 and early 1873, Merlin travelled
through the towns close by Hill End, such as Bathurst
and Orange, and others to the south, such as Yass and
Goulburn, capturing images of industry, the towns
and the people for the
Often Holtermann would accompany him.
the Autumn of 1873, Merlin and Holtermann were back
in Sydney. It was here that Merlin broke the news
that he was now seriously ill and would no longer be
able to work on Holtermann's project.
However, he did recommend that Holtermann should employ
Merlin's now very experienced and trusted assistant,
to the Sands directory of the time and the records
of Sandy Barrie, Bayliss was still operating a photographic
studio and living in
is some evidence of Bayliss spending time in Sydney,
but the speculation is that his permanent base was
still in Melbourne. Following Holtermann's offer, Bayliss
travelled up to Sydney to
take up the appointment with Holtermann.
is a photograph of Bayliss and Clarke in front of the
A & A Studio at Hill End. Keast Burke dates this
photograph as early in 1872, when Merlin moved to
Hill End. It is significant that Merlin is not in
the photograph and Bayliss
proudly in front
looking like the proprietor with assistants to either
of him. Given that Bayliss was still in charge of
the A & A operations in Melbourne, we can only speculate
how much time Bayliss spent with Merlin on the NSW
September 1873, at the age of 43, Merlin died at
his home in Leichhardt, Sydney. He
some form of
"inflammation of the lungs". The
added killer was most likely the damage
caused by the long
hours in confined spaces with photographic
had lost a colleague and his partner for the exposition.
Bayliss quickly moved into the job of assisting
Holtermann. It was Bayliss who then suggested to Holtermann
that the preferred format should be the 'Mammoth Plate'
format of 18" X 22". Holtermann agreed and
took steps to supply Bayliss with the appropriate equipment.
soon left the goldfields and undertook to
build a magnificent house at Blues Point,
above Lavender Bay, with panoramic views across Sydney.
Bayliss was dispatched back to Melbourne to undertake
more views. The stand-out works from this trip are
the composite panoramas of Melbourne and Ballarat
- Geelong Photo
Lavender bay House
was on top of his Lavender Bay house, and its tower,
that Holtermann had constructed a special temporary
in which he
built a large camera to make the world’s
largest negatives. With Bayliss as his
main photographer, in 1875 Holtermann
oversaw the creation of the now famous
Sydney Panorama and several other panoramas.
with other Merlin and Bayliss
photographs of Australia, formed the
basis of the collection that he was to take on
his international tours. The resultant
Sydney Panorama was announced as the
largest photograph, which in turn led to
much debate as it was
an accepted fact that such ‘largest’ works
were usually exclusively produced within
the United States.
was able to convince the NSW Government to include
the Holtermann Photographs,
in photographic section at the 1876 Philadelphia
Later they were
also shown at the 1878 Paris Exposition
Universelle Internationale, winning a silver
there remains several examples of the panoramas, the
finest remaining is
now owned by the National Gallery of Australia. The
up example taken
to Europe has sadly not been traced. (We have reports of it being stored in buildings destroyed during the war))
seemed to have maintained his mining interest, employing
a manager, as
well as having other commercial
such as importing businesses and advertising
the merits of Holtermann’s
continued with Holtermann commissions till around 1876.
By 1878 Bayliss had moved permanently from Melbourne
Sydney and set
own studio in George Street Sydney. There is no evidence
of any further collaborations between Bayliss and
1879, Holtermann was given a special bay at the Sydney
International Exhibition held in the Garden Palace.
He included (and acknowledged) photographs by
both Merlin and Bayliss.
was also taking photographs himself, being a keen amateur,
of the wet
plate, as well
producing stereo photographs and more
panoramas of Sydney. Around
1880, Holtermann tried unsuccessfully
again to be elected to the NSW Parliament.
1882, he was at last successful, being
elected by the residents of St Leonards.
work in the NSW Parliament is in Hansard and includes
an unsuccessful attempt
from Sydney to North Sydney, a scheme
to encourage more German immigrants
of the USA),
as well as for the NSW Government
to fund more photographs of Sydney to
of the colony.
despite these set backs, his community
works continued, including supporting
improvements in amenities and infrastructure
in North Sydney and even
offering to assist with a personal
donation to build a bridge across the harbour.
29th April 1885, his 47th birthday, Bernhard Otto Holtermann
an 18 month illness.
final words belong to Jack
Cato (communications with Keast
Burke): “Bernhard Otto
Holtermann can be ranked, perhaps,
first and greatest amateur of
photography, using that word
in its original
sense. He liked the art for its
own sake, yet realised, perhaps,
more than he knew, its greatest
much of the above is based on Keast Burke's published
This has been added to with
information gleaned from conversations with other researchers
and on some speculations where definitive information
We are happy to receive communications about Holtermann. The research continues...