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Lindt, John William (1845–1926)

by Valerie Frost

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

John William Lindt (1845-1926), photographer, was born at Frankfurt on Main, Germany, son of Peter Joseph Lindt, excise officer, and his wife Justine, née Rambach. At 17 he ran away to sea and joined a Dutch sailing ship. He deserted at Brisbane; by 1863 he was at Grafton as a piano-tuner and then worked in a photographic studio. He visited Germany in 1867 and on his return bought the business. Using the wet-plate process he photographed the Clarence River district and its Aboriginals, producing albums in 1875 and 1876. He then sold out and went to Melbourne where he opened a studio in Collins Street. He soon won repute for his society, theatre and landscape photographs. In 1880 he photographed the capture of the Kelly gang at Glenrowan. When the first commercial dry plates arrived in Melbourne he went to Europe to seek agencies for the latest photographic equipment. On his return he worked in the studio and the Victorian countryside; many of his photographs were used in the railways. He also designed and modified cameras as well as 'advising in matters photographic'.

In 1885 Lindt went with Sir Peter Scratchley's expedition to the Protectorate of British New Guinea as official photographer. He presented an album of his New Guinea photographs to the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London in 1886. He went to Europe to publish his Picturesque New Guinea (London, 1887), to visit the optical institutions and manufacturers which he represented and to seek more agencies. He was elected a judge at the international photographic exhibition at Frankfurt, received a gold medal from the Photographic Association of Vienna and became a member of the Royal Geographical Society, London. He had already won medals in exhibitions such as those at Amsterdam, Calcutta and Frankfurt. He was official photographer for the 1888 Melbourne International Exhibition but was not permitted to contest any awards.

Late in the 1880s Lindt photographed the Chaffey brothers' irrigation works on the River Murray. In 1890 he toured the New Hebrides and in June climbed the Tanna volcano. With a small grant from the Royal Geographical Society he toured Fiji where he photographed a fire-walking ceremony in 1892. He became a councillor of the Victorian branch of the Royal Geographical Society in 1893. He lost his clientele in the financial crisis and closed his studio in 1894. In 1895 he moved to the Hermitage, a new home that he had built at Blacks Spur. It became a well-known pleasure resort, with such attractions as three New Guinea-type tree houses in the garden designed by Ferdinand Mueller. Guests remembered Lindt's hospitality, his bush-walking, his flair for telling stories and showing lantern slides and his playing on the viola at musical evenings. He wrote articles and continued his photography and world-wide correspondence. One of his last exhibitions was of 'photograms' in the Albert Street Art Gallery in 1909.

At Grafton on 13 January 1872 Lindt had married Anna Maria Dorothea Wagner; she died on 27 May 1888 soon after delivering a stillborn child. On 10 July 1889 at Melbourne he married Catherine Elizabeth Cousens who had worked with him as a retoucher. Aged 81 he died during disastrous bushfires on 19 February 1926 at the Hermitage, survived by his wife.

Select Bibliography

  • J. J. Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia (Melb, 1955)
  • Australasian, 1 Nov 1884, 27 July 1889, 15 Nov 1890
  • M. McLardy, ‘Our oldest living photographer’, Australasian Photo-Review, Sept 1947
  • ‘The great Lindt’, Australasian Photo-Review, July, Aug 1952.

Citation details

Valerie Frost, 'Lindt, John William (1845–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lindt-john-william-4023/text6385, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 26 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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