Departure Point – Broadmeadows Camp through the eyes of Algernon Darge

Departure Point – Broadmeadows Camp through the eyes of Algernon Darge

A photographic exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the Maygar Barracks


 Until 15 March 2015
August 2014 marked the centenary since the founding of The Broadmeadows Camp, the current site of the Maygar Barracks on Camp Road.
The Camp was established shortly after the declaration of Australia’s commitment to the First World War. On 19 August 1914, the first group of enlisted men marched from central Melbourne out to Broadmeadows to commence training in the Australian Imperial Force, prior to embarking for war in the Middle-East and Europe. The camp fast became a bustling hub of tents and make-shift buildings.
In the initial fervour of the Great War, the sudden influx of military and curious public brought a great deal of attention to Broadmeadows, causing a rapid growth in commerce, infrastructure and amenities in the area.
The enterprising Algernon Darge, a commercial photographer from Melbourne, set up a photographic studio at the Broadmeadows Camp (and later the Seymour Camp) to cater for the demand for studio portraits of the new recruits.  Apparently a cousin of Banjo Patterson, Darge was known as quite an eccentric character. His appearance was once described as grotesque, and his manner that of a profound thinker, although he was reportedly very shy when spoken to. His William Street home and studio was said to be like a museum of remarkable antiques that he collected throughout his life. He had many keen interests included Squab pigeon breeding, mechanics and chemistry. He was one of the first people in Melbourne to use a motorcar for commercial purposes. His car was super-charged and kitted-out with a canvas carryall and tent cover, the radiator embellished with skull and crossbones.
During the First World War it was common practice to have a formal studio photograph taken in uniform, signifying a fulfilment of duty and the transition from citizen to soldier, a credible memento of the absent family member for the mantelpiece at home. However, as this collection of photos also shows, some people approached their portrait photograph with a sense of humour and casualness that seems almost surprising considering this was an era when people were still largely unaccustomed to being regularly photographed. 
Sadly, in many cases, the prints outlived the people pictured in them. Many of the soldiers captured by Darge’s camera would, before too long, die in the mud of Flanders, the chalk downlands of the Somme or among the scrubby cliffs of Gallipoli.
Algernon Darge’s immense catalogue of glass-plate negatives went into storage after the war until they were sold to the Australian War Memorial in the late 1930’s, prior to his death. These images offer us a precious, often intimate and candid, insight into these early days of camp-life. His studio portraits bring into sharp focus the unique identities of the people swept-up in this national movement. The honesty of their expression and gesture calls through time and reminds us of the individual sacrifice that forged the ANZAC story.  
Hume City Council is grateful to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra and the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne for their support in the development of this exhibition.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this exhibition may contain images and names of deceased people.

 Thursday 15 January - Sunday 15 March 2015
Gee Lee-Wik Doleen Gallery, Hume Global Learning Centre - Craigieburn
75-95 Central Park Avenue, Craigieburn

Monday – Thursday: 10am - 8pm
Friday: 10am - 5pm
Saturday: 10am - 4pm
Sunday: 1pm - 4pm
*Not open on public holidays

Updated : 10:11 AM, 1 June 2017

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