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Debrie Parvo model 'L' 35mm hand-crank movie camera and accessories, used by Frank Hurley


Debrie Parvo model 'L' 35mm hand-crank movie camera and accessories, used by Frank Hurley

Object information

Physical description

A Debrie Parvo model 'L' 35mm hand-crank movie camera and accessories, consisting of: a camera shutter, five lenses (one with a bellows attachment), a view finder, an extension tube and a camera case.

Statement of significance

The Robert and Irene Goard collection comprises cameras and other photographic equipment owned and used by prominent Australian photographers and businessmen Charles Kerry, George Rose and Frank Hurley and amateur photographer and engineer Ernest Macartney de Burgh. The collection includes a dry whole plate field camera and a wet plate sliding box camera used by Kerry, a Lizars Challenge stereo camera owned by George Rose and a 35mm Debrie Parvo cine-camera acquired by Frank Hurley for the 1929-30 British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions. It also includes a Sanderson folding plate camera awarded to de Burgh by the Institute of Engineers to recognise his securing the prestigious Telford Premium award in 1903-04.

From the 1880s to the 1920s, professional Australian photographers such as Kerry, Rose and Hurley created an extensive record of urban and rural life in eastern Australia and developed highly successful businesses producing and selling portraits, landscape views and news and event photographs as prints, postcards and stereocards. These photographers also exhibited overseas and imported views of the world, including, for Hurley, of Antarctica, for Australian consumption. Through these practices, photographers such as Kerry, Rose and Hurley shaped both Australians' understanding of and interest in their own social and natural environments and Australians' perception of their place in the world.

Educational significance

This is a Debrie Parvo model L 35 mm 'cinematograph' camera manufactured in France by the Debrie Company. It was purchased by Frank Hurley for the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition in 1929.

On 1 August 1929, Australian photographer Frank Hurley boarded SY Discovery, bound for Cape Town, at London's East India Dock. Appointed Official Photographer and Cinematographer to the British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expeditions, Hurley was embarking on his third adventure to the southern polar continent. Hurley had purchased a new 35 millimetre film camera, a Parvo Model L 'cinematograph' manufactured in France by the Debrie company. He was well pleased with his new acquisition, writing in his diary: 'I unpacked three cases containing my cinematograph gear which has been shipped under bond from France. The instrument which is by Debrie is a glorious piece of mechanism and the ideal of perfection for my work.'

Hurley used the Debrie for the next 30 years. In Antarctica from 1929 to 1931, he recorded life aboard Discovery, the intriguing wildlife and majestic pack ice, and the scientific work of the expeditions. He failed, however, to capture perhaps the most important moment of the voyages, Sir Douglas Mawson's proclamation of British sovereignty over regions of Antarctica. The proclamation was made during a rushed trip ashore and Hurley apparently didn't have enough time to set up his heavy and unwieldy camera and tripod, which together weighed some 80 pounds. But Hurley still managed to include the event in 'Siege of the South', his documentary of the expeditions. He simply filmed Mawson re-enacting the proclamation on the cliffs at Bondi.

The first model produced around 1922, Hurley's Debrie was originally a silent camera. Ten years later, 'talkies' had replaced silent film and the Debrie was modified with an added connection for a drive motor rendering it capable of synchronisation with a sound recorder. Through the 1930s, Hurley worked for Cinesound Productions Ltd, using the camera for short films on the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, life in the backblocks of South Australia, the tourist attractions of the Blue Mountains and Tasmania, and the timber and mining industries. He may also have used the Debrie for location shooting when working as a cinematographer on features, such as Charles Chauvel's 'Forty Thousand Horsemen' (1940).

In August 1940, Hurley was appointed head of the Department of Information's Photographic Unit. When he flew out of Sydney en route for the Middle East, he took his trusty Debrie. Filming in the desert was as difficult as in Antarctica, with sand and dust, rather than cold and ice, clogging the camera mechanism and obscuring lenses. Yet Hurley, together with his team, doggedly followed Australian forces back and forth across North Africa, recording from close range the battles of Bardia, Tobruk and El Alamein. From 1943, Hurley travelled throughout the Middle East making propaganda films for the British Ministry of Information.

Object information

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