Lives in photos – Part 1

This blog is about photos in the lives of the Veneto market gardener families and is the first of three parts. Part 1 is about the photos taken before family members
migrated to Adelaide in the late 1920s.
In Part 2 I will focus on photos taken in the early years of the Veneto market gardeners.
I will post the final part in late December and it will concentrate on the photos
taken by families after World War II.

When was the last time you took a photo? If you’re like me, it was probably a few days ago – I took some photos on my iPhone. I could look at the image straight away, edit it by cropping and share it with others via a text or other media and delete which ones I didn’t like.

In the lives of the Veneto market gardeners, photos held a different value. They were precious because they were not taken every day and they were expensive to develop or purchase from a studio photographer.

I’ve been fortunate that the people I’ve interviewed for the project have given me permission to use photos that are now on the website. When you look at the galleries on the webpages you will see photos that communicate stories for families. They capture a moment at a particular time, in a particular place and hold a memory for the future. The photos include images of individuals, family groups and events such as weddings and baptisms. There are not many that capture working life because photos were taken to show occasions that were socially important and told the stories of changes in families.

Before the ease of taking snaps with smart phone cameras, photos were extremely important because families could see how their absent members celebrated events. Photos of the veneti were sent from one side to the other side of the world.

A photo from Bigolino – about 1918
I’m very interested in the early photos that were taken for family records. For example, the photo of the Rossetto family is the feature photo of this blog. It was taken about 1918 and depicts Elena Vettorello and Modesto Rossetto and their nine children against the family house at Bigolino. The two eldest sons are dressed in the uniform of the Alpino soldiers which is evidence of their service during World War I.

Perhaps the portrait was taken to mark the safe return of sons from the First World War. We do not know who took the photo. It has become a lasting record of a large family before the children married and before eight of the nine began emigrating to Adelaide. In 1926, Domenico, second from the left in the back row, was the first to migrate to Australia leaving his wife Carmela and daughter, Anna.

A farewell photo – 1938
The youngest Rossetto son, Giuseppe, (Beppi) aged about five migrated in 1938 and the following photo was taken on the day he left Bigolino inside the large family household. He is in the middle of the back row dressed in a suitcoat and tie.

Rossetto family group – the day of Giuseppe’s departure to Australia, Bigolino 1938.  Courtesy, Maria Rosa Tormena.

The photo shows three generations of the Rossetto family and the remaining children, their spouses and children. Beppi is photographed with his parents and other siblings, nieces and nephews including Johnny and Maria Rosa Tormena. Surely this photo was an attempt to record the departure of Beppi, the youngest member of the Rossetto family.

A keepsake photo – before family reunion in Adelaide
A family photo that has particular emotional significance as a keepsake is the portrait of Elvio, Norina and Vito Rebuli taken after their father, Bruno,

Elvio, Dorina, Vito Rebuli, Bigolino, late 1920s. Courtesy, Elena Rebuli.

left for Australia in 1927. In the photo, the three children under five years old, are photographed in an outside location and behind them it is possible to see a row of pot plants and then a group of people who has gathered near an old building. It is likely that it was snapped in the late 1920s.

It would have been taken by a professional photographer who converted the photo to a postcard that Nana Rebuli nee Rossetto posted to her husband to an address on Kangaroo Island where Bruno Rebuli worked for a farmer for some time before the family was reunited in 1931.

Photo of a proxy marriage – 1930

Celebration of the proxy marriage of Lina Bordin and Gelindo Rossetto, 1930. Courtesy, Maria Rosa Tormena.

The large group photo was taken at the proxy marriage of Lina Bordin and Gelindo Rossetto in 1930. Gelindo’s father stood in for his son at the wedding. Lina is seated in the front row, fourth from the left, between her father-in-law who is pointing at Lina, and her mother-in-law. She wears a fur around her shoulders. The guests who are members of the Bordin and Rossetto families are well dressed and have been assembled outside a house where the photo was taken by a professional photographer. Lina lived with her parents-in-law for five months before she sailed to Adelaide to begin her married life with Gelindo. The photo would have been sent to Gelindo – as a memento of his marriage by proxy.

Passport photos – taken in Italy
Photo identification was important documentation for migrants in passports. In Australia at the time of naturalisation, people had to hand over their passports as they relinquished their Italian nationality. It’s been possible to locate some passports in the papers held at the National Archives of Australia. The passport photos were formal and often taken shortly before the migrants left their families.

Isidoro Ballestrin, passport photo, 1927. NAA:A435, 1947/4/2012.


Passport photo – Giovanni Santin – for entry into Canada 1910. Courtesy, Diana Panazzolo nee Santin.

Photographs taken of our forebears many decades ago are valuable reminders of the circumstances of migrant families and their separation from loved ones. We can appreciate the challenges of migration in the snapshots of members of the Veneto families.

If you have photos that were taken before your relatives migrated from Italy, do they hold different meaning from the ones taken after they arrived in Adelaide? You may have photos that you could add to the family web page and share with the Veneto community. Please get in touch with me and we can organise to include them on the website.

Madeleine Regan
31 October 2021

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