Thousands of never-before-published photographs capturing Sydney’s working harbour since the 1850s have been donated to the City of Sydney’s Archives by a man who has spent a lifetime collecting them.
Graeme Andrews OAM began taking and collecting photographs of Sydney’s ferries at the age of 17, but his passion grew to embrace everything on and around the water, until he had around 100,000 photographs stored at his home.
The Working Harbour collection features about 10,000 photographs from Mr Andrew’s collection, some dating back 160 years and covering a large area stretching from Lake Macquarie in the north, south to Port Kembla and west to the Nepean River.
There are dozens of photographs of well-known ferries – such as Kanangra, Kirawa, Kurra Ba and Karaga – as well as images of both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the AMP skyscraper being built, wharves being constructed at Darling Harbour in 1909, and countless other ship-to-shore memories.
“As a child I went to Fort Street Primary School by the ferry from Mosman Bay and got to know the skippers and deckhands and occasionally even fell into the water,” Mr Andrews, 75, said.
“I’ve ‘lived’ the harbour for about 70 years and my image collection is my tribute to a place that was – the future is for someone else to image and evaluate.
“I chose the City’s Archives as the final destination for my images, because it offered space and reason and seemed to have very little on display concerning the greater Port and its facilities.”
Mr Andrews has kept his career close to the water, too: working as a petty officer in the Royal Australian Navy until 1968 and the reserve until 1979. He also worked full-time as a journalist-photographer, and later as master of Manly and Sydney ferries, tugs and harbour craft.
During this time, his camera was always by his side, but he also bought photographs, exchanged them and inherited them.
“In the 1970s I was contacted by a man down at Balmain who’d worked for the ferry company and wanted to give me pictures dating back to the 1900s, which he stored in a box under his bed,” Mr Andrews said.
“Three weeks later he was dead and when I went to his house his wife answered and I asked her about the photographs and she said she burnt them.
“So about 10 years ago I started dispersing my photographs to various organisations, libraries and museums around Australia, because when I die, my wife Winsome won’t know what to do with them.”
For the past nine months, Mr Andrews has visited the City of Sydney Archives every Tuesday, correcting maritime mistakes in the Archive’s image files and cataloguing his vast collection, of which over 3,000 images are now available to view on the Archives Pix website.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the collection provided a valuable insight into the history of Sydney’s waterways and the people who worked on them.
“Graeme has done a terrific job being the custodian of these images and we appreciate his generous donation to the people of Sydney,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Without people like Graeme, many memories and visual histories would be lost. His collection of photographs means we can enjoy a greater understanding of Sydney’s waterways and the importance they had – and continue to have – on our way of life.”
The Working Harbour collection includes photographs by Mr Andrews, as well as images by other passionate photographers, such as Ron Montgomery, Fred Saxon and the Dufty family of ship photographers, who made their living selling photographs to ships’ passengers and crew in the early 1900s.
Mr Andrews has donated thousands of other photographs from his 100,000-strong collection to the Australian National Maritime Museum, Queensland Maritime Museum, Sydney Heritage Fleet, New Zealand National Maritime Museum and the Naval Historical Society of Australia.
To see the 3,000-plus photographs from the Working Harbour collection on the City’s Archive Pix visit http://photosau.com.au/Cos/scripts/home.asp and search for ‘Graeme Andrews’.
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