United We Stand, Impressions of Broken Hill 1908 – 10
Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1984
United We Stand is a unique social document. Edward Stokes’ initial intention was to produce a photographic history of Broken Hill over forty years. He changed his plans when he discovered, in of all places a garden shed, a collection of glass negatives taken by James Wooler between 1908 and 1910. The book captures Broken Hill, and a sense of its people. This is a beautifully presented publication. It captures an era which is fading fast, and wonderfully rekindles the memory.
Sydney Morning Herald, 1984
If the people of Broken Hill have been unhappy in much of their history, they have been fortunate in this book, the latest chronicle of their past. United We Stand is the result of one of those happy accidents that occasionally occur in the creation of a book. Edward Stokes, while engaged upon a pictorial history of the town, discovered a large collection of Broken Hill glass plate negatives. Stokes later proved these negatives to have been taken between 1908 and 1910.
Yet if this book is one of the most moving visual portrayals of Australian working-class life, it is also much more than that. For the book’s photographs are beautifully balanced against transcripts of Stokes’ lengthy interviews, with fifteen men and fifteen women who lived and worked in Broken Hill during those years. The reader is further helped by a series of historical essays, providing political and social context for the pictures and memories. The result is a mosaic of Australian life. Stokes’ organization of the photographs is equalled by his sympathetic ability to capture the intonations of Australian speech. United We Stand is a fine piece of history.
Oral History Association of Australia Journal, 1984
With the publication of United We Stand an Australian classic is born. Rarely in local publishing has the essence of community been so specifically, so realistically and evocatively brought to life. There have been other books on Broken Hill, some by scholars of distinction. But in terms of putting people in their place and times, the essence of social history, none have approached the achievement of United We Stand.
The aim of the book is deceptively modest, in the author’s words to “give an impression of life in an Australian mining town around the year 1909”. Yet 1909 was no ordinary year in Broken Hill. That fact is well enough known, but it assumes a distinctive and most telling dimension in Stokes’ book.
The images are magnificent. They cover most aspects of local life in graphic and, at times, loving detail. What is presented is a pictorial resume of a community as it experienced the pleasure and, more frequently, the passion and pain of life in an often harsh industrial and natural environment. Yet United We Stand is not overwhelmed by its photographs. Fundamental to the power of the book are the oral history recollections of its thirty elderly people. The consequent amalgam of image and anecdote ensures that the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. United We Stand is a book worth having, and it is beautifully designed and produced.
The National Times, 1984
United We Stand, Impressions of Broken Hill is a social history of Broken Hill by Edward Stokes. The book is based on recollections of thirty very elderly residents, and on photographs from the years 1908 to 1910. The photographs come from a remarkable collection of half-plate glass negatives, discovered by Stokes in 1981.
The negatives are the work of James Wooler, a Yorkshireman born in 1873. Wooler became a self-taught, talented photographer. After migrating to Australia in 1907, he lived in Broken Hill for three years, when he took the book’s photos.