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Charles Henry Kerry (1857–1928)

by Keast Burke

This article was published:

Charles Henry Kerry (1857-1928), photographer, was born on 3 April 1857 at Bombala, New South Wales, son of Samuel Kerry, commissioner's orderly and later grazier from Derbyshire, England, and his native-born wife Margaret, née Blay. Educated at Bombala and in Sydney, at 17 he joined Alexander Henry Lamartiniere's photographic studio and about 1883 became a partner. Soon afterwards Lamartiniere absconded with Kerry's small capital, but he carried on in partnership with C. D. Jones, paid off the firm's debts and turned a small portrait studio into the colony's largest photographic organization.

Kerry sold albums of high-quality pictures of the countryside; he filled his shop window with news pictures of the latest funeral, cricket match or vice-regal garden party and sold prints to the public. In 1885 he was asked to prepare an exhibit of Aboriginal portraits and corroboree pictures for the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. In 1891 he was commissioned by the government to photograph the Jenolan and Yarrangobilly caves. The project, carried out by candlelight and magnesium flashes, was hazardous. At Yarrangobilly he found and named the Jersey cavern after the governor. He also visited leading pastoral stations in New South Wales professionally.

At St Mark's Church, Darling Point, Kerry married Delphine Hilda Vivian on 20 January 1897. Next year his luxurious three-storied studio was opened and he used electric arc lights to photograph guests at a ball. By 1900 Kerry & Co. handled the major illustrations for the local press. In 1908 he photographed the visit of the American fleet and the Burns-Johnson fight, when he rushed the exposures of each round to the studio to be printed and put in his show-window within minutes of their arrival.

Long interested in mineralogy, Kerry floated tin-mining companies in the Federated Malay States and Siam, and was chairman of the Malayan Tin Corporation and of the Ratrut Basin and Takuopa Valley tin-dredging companies until his death. He handed over his studio to a relation in 1913 to concentrate on his mining interests and twice visited the East. A keen angler and bushman, Kerry had joined the Sydney Lancers in the 1880s and in five years won twenty-five prizes in cavalry sports. In the 1890s he took up clay pigeon shooting, in 1893-94 won the New South Wales open handicap and was a founder of the New South Wales Gun Club. He pioneered snow sports at Kiandra and in the winter of 1897 led a party from Jindabyne to the summit of Mt Kosciusko, which led to the opening up of the area for skiing and the naming of a run after him. He was president of the Kosciusko Alpine Club.

Soon after his return from a visit to the Great Barrier Reef, Kerry died suddenly at his home at Neutral Bay on 26 May 1928 and was cremated with Anglican rites. He was survived by his wife and son who inherited his estate, valued for probate at £8303.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia (Melb, 1955)
  • Australasian Photo-Review, Mar 1952
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 11 Apr 1891
  • Sydney Mail, 23 Sept 1903
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Dec 1924, 24, 29 Oct 1927, 28 May 1928.

Related Thematic Essay

  • Michael Aird, Lindy Allen, Chantal Knowles, Paul Memmott, Maria Nugent, Tim O'Rourke and Jonathan Richards, Wild Australia Show

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Keast Burke, 'Kerry, Charles Henry (1857–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


3 April, 1857
Bombala, New South Wales, Australia


26 May, 1928 (aged 71)
Neutral Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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