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Incredible photographs from the Archives - Negative No.15

By: Elizabeth McKinnon, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 03 Jul 2015

 A blog series investigating stories and images from the earliest collection of photographs in the Museum's history.

Eye of Pagrus auratus

Eye of Pagrus auratus
Photographer: Henry Barnes © Australian Museum

What do you see when looking into the eye of this fish? Is it a glimpse into the 1800s? Maybe it is Henry Barnes, the Museum photographer?

This image was sealed in glass in the 19th century. The specimen was then identified as Pagrus unicolor, today called Pagrus auratus, and more commonly known as a Snapper. The specimen was not accessioned into the collection, however the images show an immense amount of detail of the freshly caught fish.

Long before digital cameras and Photoshop, glass plate negatives were at the forefront of photographic technology. With one side of the glass plate with coated with emulsion, the negative can look deceptively low in quality. However note the detail of the scales, the intricacy of the fins, and yes, the haunting reflection of life captured in the eye.

The photograph was originally taken to record an example of a snapper, but nearly 150 years on the glass plate can offer so much more.