A broad history of the panoramic tradition

The panoramic tradition dates back to twelfth century hand painted Chinese scrolls that presented continuous, unfolding landscapes. In Western art, early panoramic views were depicted in Renaissance frescoes and maps and, by the seventeenth century, were popularised in Dutch town, land and seascapes.

However, it was not until the late eighteenth century that the term ‘panorama’ was coined when large 360 degree surround panorama paintings were invented and patented by the Scottish artist Robert Barker. Purpose-built panorama buildings were constructed to house them in London as well major cities in Europe and America. At the cost of a shilling, they provided cheap entertainment in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and would have been familiar to Queensland’s pioneers.

With the invention of photography in 1837 by Louis Daguerre, early practitioners sought to replicate the panoramic experience initially using a sequence of daguerreotypes. As early as 1846, specially designed panoramic cameras with swing lenses were invented that had a 150 degree arc. As photographic technology improved, new cameras were developed with ever wider fields of view and, in 1857, the first rotating panoramic camera with 360 degree coverage was manufactured.

The earliest recorded panoramic photograph in Australia was taken in Hobart in 1856. Soon, photographers in other states followed, with sequential panoramic views of Sydney, Melbourne and Bendigo taken over the next two years. By the mid 1860s, most cities had panoramas and views for sale. The panoramic photograph had arrived.

By the end of the nineteenth century the first mass-produced panoramic camera was in production. Panoramic photography had entered the domain of the amateur, soon saturating promotional tourism literature.

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