THE work of a prominent Bendigo photographer is shedding light on Victorian life in the first half of the 20th century.
Vincent Kelly captured everything from family photos to soldiers departing or returning from war in his studios in Bendigo.
About 5000 glass plate negatives - discovered in the basement of a building in Pall Mall, believed to be one of Kelly's former studios - are in the hands of the State Library Victoria.
Senior librarian Bridie Flynn said the images provided an insight into what life in Bendigo was like about 100 years ago.
And, with about 4000 of the glass plate negatives yet to be processed, there was more to be seen and learned.
Ms Flynn said Kelly worked in Bendigo for pretty much half a century.
He lived from 1877 to 1958.
Kelly was practising photography in Bendigo from about 1900 through to 1940, according to Ms Flynn
"It's that early part of the 1900s he was documenting," she said.
"I think he must have been doing quite well to say in business that long."
Kelly's studio had a practice of inscribing the name of the paying client's name on the glass plate negatives.
Ms Flynn said the inscriptions provided an insight into who had commissioned images - and, in some cases, who sat for photographs.
She said Kelly captured a lot of the people in Bendigo during the years he was in business.
People came from the broader central Victorian region to have their photographs made, too.
"It was that era where you probably had to save up a bit of money or if you were well off you would go in and sit in the studio and sit quite still and have your portrait taken," Ms Flynn said.
Studio portraits make up the bulk of the collection.
However, Ms Flynn said there were some images of social life such as women out to lunch and horse racing events.
"It captures that daily life and what people thought was important to capture as a moment in their life," the senior librarian said.
The collection, which was donated by the Rosenberg family in 2016, was telling about the values and lives of people living in the region at the time.
Among the glass plate negatives are images of children dressed up for Easter shows, local events and theatrical performances.
The photographs provided a glimpse of what people were wearing at the time, how they posed, how a family unit was comprised, and the cross-section of the community that could afford to go to a studio.
"As well as the people, we get this really nice insight into a studio that was operating for 40 years and what it was like for the photography industry in that period," Ms Flynn said.
She said there was a teddy bear Kelly kept in the studio, which the photographer used when making images of children.
"You can see in some of the early photos the teddy bear is nice and schmick," Ms Flynn said.
The same bear appears in the later images, looking the worse for wear.
"The other thing we can see is kind of like old-school Photoshop," Ms Flynn said.
"We're used to seeing a photograph print, which is the end product, but the negative is a work in progress for the studio."
She said the glass plates were slightly bigger than a postcard and the studio would shoot it on the left and right side, using both halves of the plate.
There were images that had been crossed out and others that had been modified with techniques like masking.
One of the circumstances when Ms Flynn said the technique was evident was to block out a parent's arm if they were holding a child still for a portrait.
Even in the early 20th century there were techniques to improve people's appearances, like smoothing out wrinkles and blemishes and hiding wisps of hair.
About 1000 of the donated glass plate negatives have been processed, with images available to peruse on the State Library Victoria website.
"We're very excited the images are out there for the people of Bendigo to look for," Ms Flynn said.
The library is hopeful community members might be able to shed additional light on the images.
There is a comment function on the online catalogue record, or Ms Flynn said people could get in touch via the 'Ask a Librarian' service.
The process to make the images publicly available involves preserving the glass plate negatives, developing and digitising the images, and cataloguing them.
"It's quite a task but it's really interesting because it involves four different areas in the library," Ms Flynn said.
First, the glass plate negatives go through preservation and conservation, where surface dirt and dust is removed and any necessary treatment is applied.
The glass plate negatives were discovered in the 1970s.
"For the most part they seem to be in really good condition," Ms Flynn said.
The next steps take place in the library's photographic studio, where a positive is developed from the negative using a light box and is captured with a digital camera.
"Once we've got a positive version we can look at the digital image and can see what's going on a lot more clearly," Ms Flynn said.
That's when the researchers get to work, followed by the team involved in cataloguing.
Ms Flynn said researchers took into account things like uniforms, family groups, directories, local history and newspapers.
To view Kelly's photographs, visit slv.vic.gov.au