(n/a) Edward Frederick Reichenbach (1892-1968), and an unknown photographer A Collection of Early 20th Century Photographs

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Lot 6
(n/a) Edward Frederick Reichenbach
and an unknown photographer
A Collection of Early 20th Century Photographs
Sold for AU$ 5,040 (US$ 3,607) inc. premium

Lot Details
(n/a) Edward Frederick Reichenbach (1892-1968), and an unknown photographer A Collection of Early 20th Century Photographs (n/a) Edward Frederick Reichenbach (1892-1968), and an unknown photographer A Collection of Early 20th Century Photographs (n/a) Edward Frederick Reichenbach (1892-1968), and an unknown photographer A Collection of Early 20th Century Photographs
(n/a) Edward Frederick Reichenbach (1892-1968), and an unknown photographer
A Collection of Early 20th Century Photographs An album with 28 silver gelatin prints depicting scenes of Aboriginal life at Oenpelli, Daly River and the Alligator River.
Each approximately 8 x 14cm (3 1/8 x 5 1/2in).


  • Captions either written on the mount or inscribed in the photograph:
    1. On the quicksand, Lowtide in the Alligator River N.T.
    2. Native cave, Debil Debil, Alligator River N.T.
    3. The Debil Debil Alter in Cave of Eternity, Alligator river N.T.
    4. Some methods(?)of Transport N. Australia
    5. Cutting Cancer from Horses N.T.
    6. A days fishing at Oenpelli, Alligator River N.T.
    7. Crocodile 8 feet long shot by the author
    8. Cape Don Aboriginals N.T.
    9. A blind Aboriginal, Cape Don NT
    10. Cutting Cabbage Tree Palms for Walkingsticks N.T.
    11. Natives packing stone and sand for constructing cattle dip at Alligator river N.T.
    12. Skull Pocket Oenpelli N.T.
    13. Bull. A great Spear Thrower, Cape Don N.T.
    14. N.T. Daly River native women
    15. Kitty at Daly River loobra
    16. Cape Don Aboriginals N.T. These natives are famous for fish spearing
    17. Innocents abroad Alligator River, Oenpelli N.T.
    18. A famous native dance, Oenpelli N.T.
    19. Wood carriers at Oenpelli, Alligator River N.T.
    20. Washing day, Daly River N.T.
    21. (Illegible) Oenpelli N.T.
    22. Pairing for a native study Alligator River N.T.
    23. Mary Come Back, Daly River, N.T.
    24. Cape Don natives constructing a house of wood and bark, N.T.
    25. Daly River Native Women
    26. Daly River native women awaiting their rations N.T.
    27. Babes of the wood, Oenpelli, N.T.
    28. A native Snake Charmer, Daly River N.T.

    Aalders Auctions, Important Spring Auction, Australiana, Erskineville, Sydney, 7 November 2010, lot 454
    Private collection

    Cf. For further information about Ryko's photography of Aboriginal people see Roslyn Poignant,'Photographs of the "fort Dundas Riot": the Story So Far', in Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2 (1996), pp.24-40.

    The Photography of Edward Frederick Reichenbach

    Edward Frederick Reichenbach, also known as Ted Ryko, was born in the small rural township of Woorak, near Jeparit in the Mallee countryside of Victoria, on the 26 September 1892. His parents, Ludwig Carl Reichenbach and Alma Johanna Reichenbach were also born in Australia of German descent.

    The young Reichenbach is first noted in newspaper accounts celebrating his successful attempt to beat the record for the 'sea to sea', bicycle ride, from Adelaide to Port Darwin, which he completed over a period of 28 days and 5 mins in May/ June 1914 . Reichenbach must have liked the Territory, for he relocated to Darwin and opened a photography studio in Cavenagh Street, which he operated until December 1915.

    Over the next few years, from 1916 to 1918 he remained in the Territory, and still pursuing photography, but travelling widely, mainly by bicycle, and producing a large number of images from which he appears to have made a living. A contemporary advertisement 'Ryko the NT out-door Photographer' boasts the availability of 'over 2,500 rare photographic postcards' though only a small percentage of these are known to have survived to the present.

    The range of Ryko's Territory pictures includes both Darwin townscapes and remote landscapes across coastal Arnhem Land with a significant number of images devoted to exploring the traditional hunting, fishing and ceremonial activities of the Aboriginal people he encountered. Ryko appears to have established good relationships, and he documented Indigenous interactions with European cattle drovers and buffalo hunters, Macassan trepang fishermen, copper miners and missionaries. His postcard series often included hand written information about a photograph, the subject portrayed, where it was taken and occasionally the identities of the people.

    Sometimes Ryko's bicycle, or even the man himself, appears in his images, and these are often of a humorous intent, having been either 'set up', or are portrayed as re-enactments of historical events, such as his photograph, Arnhem Land Cycling Episode NT – carried to safety by friendly blacks, or his Massacre Series No 3: how the murdered Malays lost their weapons.

    Apart from his actual photographs, the main source for information on Reichenbach, who had changed his name to Ryko after the declaration of War with Germany , can be found in Australian Military intelligence reports written about him after he was accused of being a German spy. He certainly came under suspicion and various reports were submitted to the Intelligence Service, some linking his name to the former Police Inspector of the Territory, Paul Foelsche, who was German and also a prominent NT photographer.

    One report, authored by Lieutenant Somerset from the Intelligence Section of the Australian Military General Staff, and dated 16 September 1918, describes Reichenbach as 'one of the most energetic and capable men I know', ' a keen witted man...he is a photographer and turns out fine work'. Somerset goes on to describe the many long trips that Reichenbach made by bicycle across the Territory.

    'He thought nothing of taking trips 600 or 700 miles at a few minutes notice...He possesses photographs of every part of the Territory and has ridden, I believe, from the Northern Territory, though Queensland to NSW.'

    Despite the accusation of spying and the opinion of some, such as that of the Superintendent of the Railways for the NT in September 1918 that he was 'highly dangerous with respect to the Territory', no evidence was found of illegal activities and Reichenbach appears to have been allowed to continue with his life of outback travel and photography. In 1918 and 1921 he was taking photographs in Queensland, at Yarrabah Aboriginal Station and at Rockhampton. He was lucky as he might well have followed the same fate of the 700 individuals of German or Austrian descent, who were arrested, interned and ultimately deported from Australia at the end of the First World War.

    Ryko disappears from view for a while after the early 1920's but re- emerges as having been living first at Katherine in 1940, then at Ilbunga near the Finke River in 1950 pumping water for the Railways , and finally he is last sighted (and cited) living northwest at Bundooma Siding (near Marree), where he is reported as being an amateur botanist with a great passion for the study of plant life which he is now using to suggest reforestation strategies for desert environments.

    It appears that by the mid 1950's, when Reichenbach was in his early sixties his life had definitely moved on from his adventurous youth , when he had travelled alone by bicycle across thousands of miles of the wild and rugged countryside to remote stations and settlements in the Northern Territory and Cape York Peninsula. His photographs survive as a testimonial to those times, to his love of nature, and his ability to communicate something of the unknown to his fellow man. While Reichenbach obtained some notoriety in his youth as an intrepid explorer and photographer, and respect in his later years as a knowledgeable natural historian and Territorian, his rightful place in the history of photography of Australia has yet to be fully explored.

    Carol Cooper, Senior Curator, National Museum of Australia

    i.www.naa.gov.au/collections/research, File 1917/329, p1 & 15, accessed on 7 May 2011.
    ii. For example, the Brisbane Courier for Monday 22 June 1914 p 3, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspapers/result?, accessed on 8 May 2011
    iii. 'Ryko' photographs are held in by the Pictorial sections of the AIATSIS, the NAA in Canberra and the NT Library in Darwin.
    iv. See www.territorystoriesnt.gov.au for these and other examples
    v. See article in the Adelaide Register , Monday 26 June 1916, p6 'Teutonic Surnames Abandoned', http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspapers/result?, accessed on 8 May 2011
    vi. Paul Heinrich Matthias Foelsche (1831-1914), biographical entry by RJ Noye in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
    vii. The Enemy At Home, 2011, Historic Houses Trust & UNSW Press
    viii. See Adelaide Advertiser, Friday 2 June 1950 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspapers/result?, , accessed on 9 May, 2011
    ix. See Central Australian Advocate – Friday 14 November 1952 p7, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspapers/result?, accessed on 10 May, 2011

    (to request additional images from the photograph album please contact Greer Adams or Francesca Cavazzini on +61 (0) 2 8412 2222 or aboriginal@bonhams.com)
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  1. Francesca Cavazzini
    Specialist - Aboriginal Art
    97-99 Queen Street
    Sydney, Australia 2025
    Work +61 2 8412 2225
    FaxFax: +61 2 9475 4110
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