Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Higgins, Bryce: Family and Holiday Scenes: 1909-1924 (c.1909)

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clip Mount Wellington, 1909 education content clip 1

Original classification rating: not rated. This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

This clip shows the Higgins family at Mount Wellington, Hobart, in 1909. It includes scenes of the group enjoying a picnic spread on a hillside, four men making a pot of billy tea, and some of the Higgins children playing ball games in a clearing.

Curator’s notes

The four shots in this clip are all deliberately framed and shot with an eye for detail and movement. They are some of the earliest examples of home movie footage held at the National Film and Sound Archive. Home movie making was rare in the early 20th century in Australia and, as a hobby, was relatively expensive. Higgins’ interest in the moving image was sparked early on in his life and, after working as a bioscope operator in Hobart, he bought his own 35mm camera equipment, with which he filmed this home movie.

Eighteen-year-old Arthur Higgins may be on the far left of the group standing around the campfire. Arthur, along with Ernest’s third brother Tasman, went on to become a cinematographer. He was the cinematographer on many features including Raymond Longford’s The Sentimental Bloke (1919) and On Our Selection (1920).

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This silent black-and-white clip shows home-movie footage shot by cinematographer Ernest Higgins of his family on a picnic at Mount Wellington in Tasmania in 1909. It includes shots of an extended family group enjoying a picnic, including a woman who may be the children’s nanny dressed in black with a white apron, four men making billy tea on a campfire, and young children playing with a ball. Arthur Higgins, who was then 18 years old and who later became a leading cinematographer, may be on the far left of the group standing around the campfire.

Educational value points

  • Home-movie footage from this era is rare and this clip is one of the earliest surviving Australian home movies. Film was in its infancy and most early home movies were the work of professionals who, like Ernest Higgins, had access to film equipment and production facilities. Much early film has not survived as it was shot on nitrate film, a type of film stock that was chemically unstable and perished over time.
  • Ernest Higgins (1871–1945) was a pioneer of Australian film and as this clip shows was quick to embrace this new medium by making his own films. He began his film career as a projectionist before purchasing a camera to make films of Hobart and its surrounds, which he then exhibited. In 1908 he joined Spencer’s Pictures in Sydney where he shot travelogues, newsreels and features such as Captain Starlight (1911). He worked in film until his death.
  • The Higgins family became one of Australia’s best known cinematographic families, with Arthur (1891–1963) and Tasman (1888–1953) following their brother Ernest to Sydney to work as cinematographers. Arthur, the most successful, worked with leading directors such as Raymond Longford and later Pat Hanna, and remains the most prolific cinematographer in the history of Australian feature film. Ernest’s son Bryce (1920–) also became a cinematographer.
  • In 1909 when this home-movie footage was shot, film was silent and in black-and-white, and the size and weight of the 35-mm cameras meant that filmmakers tended to use long, static takes, as in this clip where the camera remains largely fixed, and to not include close-ups. When professionals such as Higgins made home movies they tended to pay attention to shot composition, as is evident here where the picnic and campfire sequences appear to be posed.
  • In the early 1900s the concept of casual clothing was unknown and men, women and children wore formal attire even on family picnics. During the day women wore ‘S-bend’ corsets and dresses with high collars, long sleeves and hemlines that reached the ground, while men favoured the lounge suit, consisting of a jacket, waistcoat and trousers. It was customary to wear a hat when outside or in public places as a bare head was considered immodest.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer Mount Wellington, 1909 from the home movie Higgins, Bryce: Family and Holiday Scenes: 1909-1924 as a high quality video download.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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