G’day Sheilas and Bruces! Welcome back to Sunday Travels! Last week, our flight got delayed by a double-post on the German invasion of Poland & the occupation of Danzig. But this week, we’re back on track – with a visit to Australia courtesy of the Keystone View Company! Today, we’ll be looking at a variety of subjects that represent a century-old American conception of Oz. Meaning that we’ll be looking at kangaroos, sheep, a forest, and a guy standing next to a really big rock.
We’ve discussed KVC’s tendency to use stereotypes in the four preceding posts on The Netherlands. For example, stereographers studying Dutch culture will not miss an opportunity to capture a windmill, a canal, or a pair of wooden shoes. And this makes sense – the consumers of KVC’s product wanted a safe, quaint, pleasant glimpse of the countries they’d never seen. Therefore, they wanted images that reinforced Americans’ preconceived notions of these countries. And boy, do they crank this up to 11 for Australia!
Now keep in mind that my Keystone “collection”, such as it is, is incredibly random. I don’t go out of my way to get these things. But I buy box lots sometimes, and these sometimes come with bulk KVC. They age well; their emulsions were of high quality. In terms of my Keys, most of the travel cards come from three large lots purchased years ago. And I’m just picking out what I come across. Thus there might be plenty of excellent KVC stereoviews that I either don’t have or are sitting in unsorted boxes. Regardless, these just make you want to spread a little Vegemite on toast, and wash it down with a Fosters. So without further ado…
A KVC Stereographer’s Day in Australia
In case it’s not obvious…
This is meant to be a bit of satire, a poke in the ribs at century-old stereoviews which were already KVC stereotypes at the time. Obviously, no single photographer took all of these, let alone in a day. They’re various stereoviews from one manufacturer that were probably taken over the span of several decades. Some of them bear the “V” prefix to their negative number, indicating acquisition from Underwood & Underwood. Some are from children’s series. But they’re not representative of the country on the whole, so I’m giving you a made-up diary from a fake photographer trying to capture Australia’s character as perceived by turn-of-the-century Americans. Basically, I’m taking the piss.
6:00 AM: I need some coffee. Maybe I should make a stereoview too.
Boy am I jet-lagged! Need to get me some coffee. I wonder if there are any cafés around here? Let’s go for a “walkabout”. Nothing much around this hotel… lots of forests and such. Haven’t seen a kangaroo or wallaby yet. Glad I haven’t seen a dingo! I hear they eat babies.* I heard there’s some cities on this island, but I really want kangaroos. Those say “Australia” better than modern cities. Maybe I’ll stop and take a stereoscopic photograph of this forest nearby:
Typically Australian! There we go. Australia is typified by forests, not modern conveniences. Still haven’t gotten that coffee! Better work on that. Meanwhile, where are all the kangaroos? They told me that Australia was chock-full of kangaroos. I haven’t seen anybody riding on a kangaroo yet. Better ask around…
1:00 PM: Finally, I found the kangaroos!
So it turns out that, while Australia does have native kangaroos, they aren’t just roaming around the entire country like locusts. Huh! However, I tracked down some locals while I was getting coffee. And boy were they standoffish when I asked them where their kangaroos were! But they steered me in the right direction. Apparently, the wild ones are out in nature, and going there would require actual effort on my part. I thought Australia was swimming in the damn things – but this should be easy. I just have to go to some parks and zoos and such. So not wild kangaroos, but whatever. Since our customers want kangaroos, they’ll get ’em!
Yay! I finally got my kangaroos! Now what else do Americans want to see? I’ve spent a lot of time near Melbourne; maybe I should show the city? After all, I had some nice coffee there earlier. But no, maybe something a little more Australia. America has cities aplenty. Koalas? No, they might have chlamydia.* Perhaps I should ask the locals again? Yes, that’s a good idea. Let’s see what else makes Oz unique.
3:00 PM: A REALLY big rock!
Oh boy, this one’s going to be a doozy. I don’t know how I’m going to top this, after I wait around for someone to show up so I can show scale. Maybe some wallabies? Yes, I think that would be good. Therefore, I’ll just wait here by this really big rock until someone comes along, take a 3D picture, and ask about wallabies. Man this rock is big! It’s not like the big boulders we have in America. It’s all round and such – I’ll leave the research up to the boring people at the captioning division. Meanwhile, this will get people thinking “we have the Transcontinental Railroad, Australia has a big rock”. It’s still really great to look at. Oh, here comes someone…
6:00 PM: Sheep. Lots of sheep!
Well, it was sure nice of that guy to pose for my picture. But he gave me some sad news about the wallabies: apparently, they’ll look to American viewers just like little kangaroos. Shame. And since I didn’t want to bother with dingoes or koalas, I asked what other animals Australia is known for. He said sheep. Sheep? We have sheep in America! But apparently, Oz has some really impressively large sheep farms. Still beats showing architecture, culture, and boring stuff like that. Plus, since I’ve already captured a rock, sheep will ensure that I don’t have to go visit New Zealand – would be a bit redundant after this. OK, Australian Sheep it is!
7:30 PM: Got a flight to catch
Well that was easy enough, and I think I captured the essence of Australia! It’s not easy being a KVC stereographer, but it’s rewarding work. I just have to visualize what Americans think of when they think of Oz, find it, and shoot it. The captioning department can use a wide variety of different verso texts, to ensure that my images get maximum use. So I’m ready to call it a day, throw another shrimp on the barbie, and head on home! Next week, I hear they’re actually hiring a sober photographer to head to Japan…
These are now in the “Travel Stereoviews” section of the boot sale. These views have all sold; sorry readers!
*I know that the Lindy Chamberlain trial wasn’t until the 1980s. I know that John Oliver wasn’t born until a half-century after these were taken. Look, it’s a freaking satire diary aimed at Keystone’s incredibly silly tendencies towards stereotyping Aussies. It’s not the freaking New York Times.