Bayliss arrived in Melbourne with his family from England in 1854. An opportune meeting with the photographer Beaufoy Merlin who came to the Bayliss’s house selling his photographs resulted in Bayliss becoming his apprentice.
Bayliss produced some of the most famous photographs of the nineteenth century. He was much praised in his lifetime both in Australia and overseas. Bayliss photographed the city, leisure activities, and the landscape. His images recorded the impact of modernisation on the colonies of Victoria and New South Wales in the decades after the gold rushes. He embraced the latest technological developments in photography to produce his photographs and large panoramas. He created a distinctive visual style characterised by dynamic, often complex compositions and by an unusual sense of spaciousness.
In 1876, Bayliss opened his first studio in Sydney where, at various addresses in George Street, he maintained premises until the end of his career, 20 years later. The brass plate outside his studio said ‘Charles Bayliss Landscape Photographer’.
The landscapes he photographed were generally within striking distance of Sydney and increasingly accessible to tourists eager for contact with nature as an antidote to city life. Improvements in transport enabled an ever-expanding number of middle-class Sydneysiders—tourists or ‘excursionists’, as they were often called—to experience natural wonders such as the Three Sisters and the Grose Valley in the Blue Mountains and the Fitzroy Falls in the Southern Highlands, all of which Bayliss photographed.
His images registered—indeed celebrated—the impact of modernisation on the colonies of Victoria and New South Wales. Like those of his contemporaries, Bayliss’s photographic views of Australian scenery, civic buildings, gardens, engineering feats and so on were acquired eagerly by a newly prosperous clientele.
Bayliss photographed the transformation of Sydney over more than two decades. Although he advertised himself as a landscape photographer, his specialisation included the built environment. His subjects were the major city buildings, civic projects and engineering feats of the colonial period.
He recorded Sydney’s footpaths, roads, new buildings (including St Paul’s College at the University of Sydney and Sydney Technical College) and the Royal Botanic Gardens. And frequently he was drawn to record Sydney’s waterside.
National Library of Australia; “A Modern Vision, Charles Bayliss Photographer 1850-1897”
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