Photographer known as Fred Kruger won a number of awards and gained international recognition for his panoramas. In 1877 he was commissioned by the Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines to photograph Aborigines at the Coranderrk Aboriginal Mission Station.
professional photographer, was born in Berlin on 18 April 1831 of working-class parents. His brother Bernard migrated to Victoria in about 1854 and established a furniture business at Rutherglen; Johan Friedrich or 'Fritz’ (as he signed himself before anglicising his name to Fred) joined Bernard as a partner before April 1863 when his wife and son followed him to Melbourne in the barque Macassar . Fred Kruger soon became sole proprietor of the furniture business but had sold up and become a cabinet-maker at Taradale by January 1866. Later that year he opened a photographic studio at 133 Cardigan Street, Carlton, Melbourne.
Kruger took the first group photograph of the Aboriginal cricket team which toured Victoria before going to England to play at Lords in 1868. ( Patrick Dawson took each player individually.) The photograph dates from about October-November 1866 and Kruger is presumed to have taken it during the match at Hamilton to send to Melbourne as advance publicity. At this stage Tom Willis, the white coach, had not arrived at Hamilton and, indeed, all three (white) managers of the team were apparently taken in Kruger’s Melbourne studio and added to the montage. An engraving published in the Illustrated Australian News (Melbourne) on 20 December 1866 was adapted from his photograph, the figures being reversed.
Throughout the following decade Kruger received international recognition for his landscape photography, being awarded medals at the 1872 Vienna and 1876 Philadelphia Centennial exhibitions. Locally, he was commissioned by the Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines in 1877 to produce an album of carte-de-visite portraits of the Aborigines at the Coranderrk Aboriginal Mission Station near Healesville, together with views of the settlement. The album, published in 1883, includes possibly his best-known photograph: a cricket match at Coranderrk.
Kruger won a gold medal for the best collection of landscape views taken within 25 miles of the Geelong Post Office and a gold medal for the best panoramic view of Geelong at the Geelong Industrial and Juvenile Exhibition of 1879, his 10-foot (3 m) long panorama comprising 10 photographs taken from the tower of St Paul’s Church on La Trobe Terrace in September 1879. He also took photographs of the Geelong exhibition itself, such as the fountain in the main hall, the rockery in the annexe, the exhibition building and scenes at the opening ceremony. By February 1880 he had collected 60 views, which he sold separately as cabinet photographs or together in an album.
By then Kruger had settled permanently in Geelong. The first of his numerous excursions around the district was made in August 1879 when he photographed 'scenery in the neighbourhood of Batesford and the Barrabools’ and 'a very pretty view of Highton’. In 1880 he issued a collection of 12 views of the principal streets and public buildings of Geelong. The views of Geelong and its suburbs that he showed at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition again won him an award. The Victorian government commissioned him to photograph the Yan Yean waterworks for the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. The numerous views he showed at the 1887 Geelong Exhibition seem to have been a novel compilation of photographs taken over the preceding eight years. The 31 photographs were enclosed in medallions of various sizes to form 'a really magnificent panoramic picture … entirely different to anything else in the building’, the Geelong Advertiser reported on 23 November 1887.
Kruger received numerous private commissions from property-owners in the district to photograph their estates, including Peter Manifold of Purrumbete (who wrote, however, in 1879, 'please do not send me any more as I have now such a great number’), George Fairbairn of Wyndermere, Frederick Armytage of Wooloomanata (c.1880) and the Chirnsides of Werribee Park (1882). His most prestigious commission was from Lady Loch, the governor’s wife who, when accidentally encountered on an excursion to Point Lonsdale in 1885, asked Kruger to take a view through the trees of SS Austral against a backdrop of Point Nepean.
As early as March 1879 Kruger was photographing groups of Geelong townsmen, on one occasion taking the employees of the boot manufacturers Strong & Pierce picnicking at Bream Creek. Conscious that prospective buyers had to be clearly seen, he took care to bring out the figures 'so distinctly that the identity of each person could be easily established’, the Geelong Advertiser of 21 March 1881 noted. Similar care was taken when photographing the Corio Bay rowing crew in November 1879.
For the colonial photographer ever pressed to find new subjects to attract buyers, disasters proved a godsend. The boiler at Humble & Nicholson’s foundry exploded in 1879 and Kruger exhibited before and after photographs; the Barwon River flooded Queen’s Park and he provided a bird’s-eye view; the George Roper was wrecked off Point Lonsdale in July 1883 and Kruger rushed to photograph it, including in his images the sightseers on the beach, who proved to be buyers as well as enhancements to the composition and drama of the image (NGV). He returned to Point Lonsdale three years later when the barque Glanseuse was wrecked.
Kruger made three less dramatic photographic visits to the Queenscliff area in January 1881, 1882 and 1885, taking views of the township, its buildings and marine setting on the first occasion and the Easter encampment of the Volunteer Artillery on the second. On the third, he made a panorama of the whole of the fortifications for the Defence Department to exhibit at the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London and took a group photograph of the Garrison Artillery on parade. He had an eye for novel presentations of his photographs; for instance, two views of the Barwon River were enamelled in 1881. He marketed his views as appropriate birthday, Christmas and New Year presents from October 1884 when he offered sets of 'charming little landscapes’ in albums. Private residences, public buildings and rural landscapes from many districts were all grist to his mill.
On 15 February 1888 Fred Kruger died of peritonitis at Surrey Hills, Melbourne. A large collection of his photographs was presented to the National Gallery of Victoria in 1979.