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J.W. Lindt -- The Mechanical Eye of the Camera

Video clip synopsis – It's often said that the camera doesn't lie but the photograph can be manipulated like any other art form.
Year of production - 2006
Duration - 5min 0sec
Tags - art, artistic manipulation, artists, Betty Churcher, media, photography, see all tags


J.W. Lindt -- The Mechanical Eye of the Camera

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About the Video Clip


J.W. Lindt — The Mechanical Eye of the Camera is an episode of the series Hidden Treasures (15 × 5 mins) produced in 2006.

The National Gallery of Australia has more than 100,000 works in its collection—an extraordinary reservoir of creative vision and cultural history, from decorative arts to photography and sculpture.

Yet on a visit to the gallery, you’ll see only the tip of this iceberg. Carefully stored away are the things that can’t be placed on permanent display.

These unseen gems include works of exquisite fragility, from brilliant hand-painted fabrics to delicate works on paper. From Australia, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, there are masks and carvings, lithographs and linocuts, set designs and stage costumes, sketchpads and handprinted books, marionettes and maquettes, teapots and textiles, and much, much more.

Now in this series of micro-docs, former director of the gallery Betty Churcher presents an insider’s guide to some of these 'hidden treasures’.

In the entertaining, accessible style for which she is renowned, Betty Churcher takes us behind the scenes, sharing with us her passion and insights. From her unique vantage point, she makes intriguing connections between a range of different objects and artists, linking them to the stories that surround them.

These are fascinating tales—about the works themselves, the people who created them and the challenge of preserving them—and a tantalising look at some of the ideas and influences that have shaped modern art across the globe.

A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Early Works. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Full program credits

Curriculum Focus


Outcome 1
Students should be able to develop a design process including visual research and inquiry to produce a variety of design explorations and a number of artworks.

Outcome 2
Students should be able to analyse and discuss the ways in which artists from different times and locations have created aesthetic qualities in artworks, communicated ideas and developed styles.

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


It’s often said that the camera doesn’t lie; but because the mechanical eye of the camera is being directed by a human sensibility, the photograph can be manipulated like any other art form. The way an image is cropped, captioned or even the way it is presented can influence the way we read it.

The invention of photography meant that, by the mid 19th century, many more families could own images of themselves. Photo albums were all the rage, and photographers often looked for picturesque or exotic themes for the pictures they took. Helen Lambert posed her subjects in a costumed tableau and her album’s handpainted decorations present the images as an eastern fantasy.

Photographs also found their way into newspapers and magazines. Although printing processes of the time could not reproduce photos directly, engravings based on photographs were printed in their pages. In the minds of the readers, this seemed to carry a greater veracity than drawings from life.
An engraving based on a photograph taken by official photographer Mr Burman of dead bushranger Joe Byrne appeared in The Bulletin on 10 July 1880. J. W. Lindt’s photograph of the same scene is particularly remarkable because, rather than concentrating on the body, which has been strung up for that very purpose, Lindt has taken a wider shot of the whole scene, including a cameraman and the artist Julian Ashton who were there to record the event. His image marks the new age of photographic reporting.

A more recent example of artistic manipulation of an image is David Moore’s 1966 colour photograph showing a middle-class Egyptian family who had joined a ship in Melbourne to accompany a relative returning to Sydney after a holiday abroad. When Moore exhibited the photo in the mid 1970s, however, he printed it in black and white and titled it Migrants Arriving in Sydney. It has since become an icon of the 1950s European migrations.

Classroom Activities

  1. Use the photographs of J.W. Lindt, David Moore and other selected photographers. Examine a display of these images then discuss in class and/or write responses to the following questions:
    1. What is happening in each photograph?
    2. What does the image convey to you?
    3. Do these images provoke an emotional response? Explain.
    4. Where and when do you think each picture was taken?
    5. Are any images in the photographs used as visual symbols, and do you think the imagery has been manipulated by the photographer?
  2. Using David Moore’s photograph Migrants Arriving in Sydney as the focus, respond in writing to all or one of the following questions, with explanations:
    1. Do you think newspaper images taken out of context could be misleading?
    2. Why do you think visual images make such lasting impressions on our emotional memories?
    3. Do you think you can count on photographic evidence to ‘tell a story’?
  3. Write an essay looking at photography as a form of fine art and as a way of documenting history. Can photography achieve both ends at the same time, or should photographic evidence be regarded as more important than artistic expression?
  4. Create a dual photographic timeline with captions, using both famous newspaper images that have left a lasting impression and personal photographs documenting your own life experiences and memories.

Further Resources


David Moore, 1927–2003 David Moore, Australian Photographer, Volume 1 Black and White, Chapter and Verse, McMahons Point, 1988

David Moore, David Moore, Australian Photographer, Volume 2 Colour, Chapter and Verse, McMahons Point, 1988

Two huts at Stringybark Creek – photographs by Mr Burman

The Getty: Lange and social-documentary photography

Digital Image Manipulation – M/Cyclopedia of New Media