Peter Solness has been projecting historic pictures of Hill End characters onto sites around the central New South Wales town. 

Photos Peter Solness

Hill End was the scene of a goldrush from the 1850s to the 1870s. The population peaked at 8000, when there were five banks, eight churches and 28 hotels. Today, it is virtually a ghost town, with just one pub, and a smattering of public buildings, mud cottages and 100 or so residents. 

A program supported by the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery encourages a range of artists to live in historic cottages in the town, and photographer Peter Solness has had three stints there in the past few years, becoming friends with a lot of the townsfolk. “I’ve become quite enamoured with the place,” Peter says. “I enjoy the quirkiness. The artist-in-residence program keeps the place a bit more alive because artists come and go and give lots of fresh eyes on the place.”



Peter delved into the historic Holtermann Collection of glass-plate negatives taken by colonial photographers Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss in the 1870s, now housed in the New South Wales State Library. Successful German-born goldminer Bernhardt Holtermann had used some of his wealth to commission extensive photographic records of the New South Wales and Victorian goldfields and set up a studio in Hill End. 

Peter set out night after night with a projector powered by a car battery, camera, tripod and torch, projecting images from the collection onto a range of sites in the town. Some of the projections relate directly to the locations themselves (such as the former butcher being projected onto the butcher shop) but others are chosen for their artistic value. “I didn’t want to be restrained by trying to adhere to absolute historical accuracy,” Peter says. “As an artist, I was primarily interested in the emotional response I was feeling as I brought the faces of these former Hill End residents back into a contemporary space. It’s a very ghostly place.”

Peter will be doing more projections during Hill End’s The End festival, April 12–14, and his photographs will be exhibited at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery from June 7 to July 28. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #124

Outback Magazine: April/May 2019