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Ludovico Wolfgang Hart was a professional photographer, photomechanical printer, traveller and a pioneer of photographic education. He was born c.1836 and baptised in London in 1840. His father, Charles Hart, was a music teacher and church organist. Ludovico himself became a fine organist. Hart enlisted as a sapper in the Royal Engineers in about 1854 where he received instruction in wet-plate photography from the noted photographer Charles Thurston Thompson. Also, he was involved in experiments with the use of electric arc lighting in photography. Hart wrote a book of instruction for wet-plate workers, Photography Simplified: A Practical Treatise on the Collodion and Albumen processes, published in 1857. About 1858 he left the army to make photography his career. He obtained a position with the established photographic firm of Disderi et Cie in Paris.
In 1860 Hart returned to England and the next year married Clara Page and set up in business as a photographer in Tunstall, Staffordshire. However he soon moved to Paris to take up a position as photographer with Numa Blanc and Co. Then, having been promoted to manage the Baden Baden branch in Germany he gained much valuable experience in portrait photography of famous people. In his spare time he made walking trips in the Black Forest carrying his wet-plate equipment. Perhaps inspired by the Barbizon school of painters he photographed the local inhabitants in their national dress and engaged in their usual work, and made notes concerning the history, geography and economy of the region.
Hart became associated with the French publisher Charles Lallemand who had conceived the idea of a series of volumes of photographs under the title Galerie Universelle des Peoples. The two had much in common, as both were interested in recording the lifestyles and dress of peoples beyond the major cities of Europe. Hart left Numa Blanc and went into partnership with Lallemand. They toured the Middle East in the Spring of 1865. A book resulting from the trip contained about 30 of Hart’s images, each 10 by 8 inches in size. The editor of the British Journal of Photography of 1 September 1865, p. 453 in reviewing the book described the photographs as “admirable representations of the ethnological peculiarities of the numerous tribes he visited”. The editor also noted that on the technical side “in the deepest shades there is a transparency through which all the details can be seen” whilst “in the highlights and half-tones there exists a softness and purity rarely met with”. Prints from the trip were also issued as single plates, some examples of which appear on the market from time to time. Lallemand also published books of Hart’s photographs derived from his work in Germany, as well as a book about Syria. Much of Hart’s published work was either unattributed or was attributed to Lallemand, and as a result Hart has remained virtually unknown.
No doubt arising from the problems of reproducing photographs for book illustration by the albumen process, Hart became interested in the newly developed methods of photo-mechanical printing, principally the Woodburytype and the carbon processes, which held promise of permanency and speed of production. He became so proficient that he was engaged to install the Woodburytype process in several printing establishments on the Continent.
In 1877 Hart was brought to Australia by the New South Wales Government Printing Office in Sydney for the purpose of installing the latest photomechanical technologies. The carbon process was successful but unforseen problems arising from the high atmospheric temperatures which prevail in Sydney over much of the year caused problems with Woodburytype such that after a few short print runs the process was discontinued. Hart was also involved in photography for the NSW Government Printing Office. One assignment was to take photographs of the Fish River [Jenolan] Caves, illuminated for the first time by electric light, to be included in the NSW display at the forthcoming Melbourne Exhibition (1880-81). On leaving the Printing Office Hart went into partnership briefly with printer Ferdinand Roux.
It seems that Hart was engaged to take the official photographs the courts at the 1880-81 Melbourne International Exhibition. Albums containing 60 contact prints, each about 12 by 10 inches in size, were presented to Queen Victoria and to local dignitaries. Again, the photographer was not identified, but an editorial published in the Australian Photographic Journal of 20 March 1896 states that “[Hart] settled in Melbourne in 1880, photographing the various courts of the Exhibition in that year, for the Commissioners, on 12 by 10 wet-plates, sixty in number”. Thus there is little doubt that Hart was the photographer.
Hart remained in Melbourne for the remainder of his working life. He worked as a professional photographer, first with E.C. Waddington in about 1882 and later in partnership with Lionel Curtis in 1885. After Curtis left the business Hart continued alone and issued stereographic views and mounted prints of Melbourne and suburbs as well as country scenes around Victoria.
He also gave public lectures illustrated with lantern slides in Melbourne and country towns.
After encountering financial problems in the depression of the late 1880s, Hart obtained a part-time position with the Working Men’s College in Melbourne where he was responsible for establishing a photography department. He wrote the curriculum and was the first, and for a time the sole, lecturer. This was the first formal course of photographic instruction in Australia, if not in the world. The course flourished, and, as more students were enrolled, he was engaged full-time and provided with staff. In 1895 he published Photographic Formulae as used by the Students of the Photographic Classes at the Working Men’s College, Melbourne. In 1891 he founded the Working Men’s College Photographic Club and was esteemed as advisor and problem solver to the members. The club, now the Melbourne Camera Club, is still in existence although no longer associated with the college.
A special field of expertise was photomicrography and for this work he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society in 1891. This was his sole formal qualification. Hart was elected to membership of the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1878 and of Royal Society of Victoria in 1891. He gave lectures to both of these societies on various subjects including the history of photography, the rôle of photography in education, and a description of his walking tours of the Black Forest area of Germany. He was a contributor to the photographic press, describing his experiences of photographic travel, and an extended series covering the techniques of photography and the photomechanical processes. In 1891 he lost most of his possessions in a flood.
Music was constant interest throughout his life. For a time Hart was Master of the Choir at Christ Church, South Yarra. He wrote several pieces of sacred choral music, some of which has survived in the State Library of Victoria.
There is little doubt that Ludovico Hart was highly regarded, both personally and as a teacher, and that on his retirement at the end of 1900 was much missed. His last years were spent in Hawaii where he gave lectures at the university and was given the honorary title of Professor Hart. He died at Waimea in 1919, leaving his estate including his medals and books to Richard Morton of the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda.
The principal collections of his work are in the State Library of Victoria, Museum Victoria, the Bibiothèque Nationale de France in Paris and Stadtarchiv Reutlingen, Germany.