Although the goldfields drew Antoine Fauchery to Australia, it is as a writer and photographer that he made most impression, eventually combining both of these skills to accompany French expeditionary forces in China as a war correspondent and official photographer. Perhaps more interestingly, though, he was the model for the painter Marcello in Puccini's 'La Bohème'.
professional photographer, journalist and adventurer, second child of Julien Fauchery, a merchant, and Sophie Gilberte, née Soré, was born in Paris on 15 November 1823 and baptised at the Church of St Germain l’Auxerrois on 18 November. Little is known of his early years other than that he tried several of the arts, including architecture, painting (under the master Cogniet), wood-engraving and finally journalism. Following a chance introduction to Théodore de Banville he met a number of prominent writers in the bohemian circle, including Henri Mürger, Champfleury, Charles Baudelaire and Gérard de Nerval, and joined them in a literary career, contributing to the paper Le Corsaire-Satan and composing a number of pamphlets. Fauchery was immortalised in Henri Mürger’s Scènes de la Vie de Bohème (on which the opera La Bohème is based), being the model for the painter Marcel.
At this time Fauchery formed a close friendship with Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, the important and innovative photographer who used the pseudonym 'Nadar’. The two joined a group of French idealists and emigré Poles who left Paris in 1848 in order to liberate Poland. Beset by many difficulties, both financial and political, the would-be liberators returned to Paris, their mission aborted.
On 23 July 1852 Fauchery sailed from the Port of London on board the Emily bound for Port Phillip, having been attracted by the lure of the goldfields. The long voyage, the embryonic city of Melbourne and the Ballarat and Jim Crow fields were described in detail by Fauchery in a series of fifteen letters published from 9 January to 8 February 1857 in the Parisian newspaper Le Moniteur Universel . Later in 1857 these were published by Poulet Malassis et de Broise in Paris in a single volume with a preface by Théodore de Banville as Lettres d’un Mineur en Australie (translated by A.H. Chisholm and published in Melbourne in 1965). During his sojourn in Melbourne, Fauchery opened the Café Estaminet Français at 76 Little Bourke Street East where non-British immigrants could meet and play billiards.
Fauchery sailed from Melbourne for London on 5 March 1856 in the Roxburgh Castle . While homeward bound, his play Calino , written in collaboration with Théodore Barrière, was successfully staged at the Vaudeville Theatre in Paris on 12 March 1856. During the same year La Résurrection de Lazare , a drama in letter form which he had written with Mürger, was published by Michel Lévy. In Paris Fauchery married Louise-Joséphine Gatineau on 15 January 1857 at the church of St Pierre de Montmartre. Shortly afterwards he obtained official accreditation and funds from the Ministry of Public Instruction and Worship to allow him to return to Australia; he was to send home his written impressions and photographic details of the country and of India and China.
He and his wife sailed from the Port of London on 20 July 1857 on board the Sydenham . On arrival at Melbourne on 4 November 1857 he established himself as a photographer at 132 Collins Street East and advertised for sale photographs he had brought with him from Paris. In March 1858 Fauchery was awarded a gold medal for his photographic portraits on paper from collodion negatives shown at the Victorian Industrial Society’s eighth annual exhibition. One reviewer praising these 'exquisite portraits and other photographs on paper’, especially noted 'a remarkable fac-simile of an old print, which is placed beside it for comparison’. Soon afterwards the professional collaboration between Fauchery and the geologist Richard Daintree began. Together they opened a studio in Collins Street East.
The Fauchery-Daintree partnership produced some remarkable photographs for the time (La Trobe Library and John Oxley Library, Brisbane). They published an album of views and studies titled Australia which was favourably reviewed by the Argus on 13 August 1858 as 'the Sun Pictures of Victoria’, the reviewer noting that the series was ultimately 'to comprise fifty large photographs, in illustrations of our colonial celebrities, our landscape and marine scenery, and our private and public architecture … The collection under notice are admirable specimens of this branch of art, for art it is; as, irrespective of the skill requisite to manipulate successfully, the manipulators must also possess the artistic faculty in choice of subjects, in the selection of the most picturesque point of view, and in discerning the most favourable aspects or accidental dispositions of light and shade’.
There is no further evidence of Fauchery’s activities in Melbourne at this time other than his presence at the death-bed of his friend, the first French consul-general, Comte Lionel Moréton de Chabrillan. Fauchery sailed from Melbourne for Manila on 21 February 1859. Few details are available of the way in which he occupied his time there, and if he took any photographs in the Philippines their location today is unknown. Issued with a passport for China by Philippine officials on 23 March 1860, Fauchery joined the French expeditionary forces as war correspondent and official photographer, sending fifteen reports, as letters, to Le Moniteur Universel from 12 October 1860 to 3 February 1861. These were serialised in the newspaper as 'Lettres de Chine’ but the photographs he took in China have not been located. On 12 January 1861 Fauchery sailed for Japan from Shanghai. On 27 April 1861, only three months after his arrival, he died from a combination of gastritis and dysentery. Fauchery was buried in the Foreign Cemetery, now known as the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.