The first news photograph?

This photograph is of a train that derailed at Young, New South Wales and it was taken by George Berlin, a travelling commercial photographer who was at the scene. Berlin had a distinctive way of ensuring that the sub-editor of the Sydney Mail (where the photograph was published on 15 September 1888) gave him due credit for his photograph - he painted his name on the steam engine of the train!

One of Sydney's leading newspaper photographers, Winton Irving, described this photograph as 'the first photograph ever used in an Australian publication' in his book The Pictures Tell the Story (Angus & Robertson 1995, p.11). But Philip Parés in a 2001 edition of the Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter (no. 15, pp.16-17) said that he found an earlier photograph 'rendered by half-tone screen… in the 6 January 1888 edition of the Melbourne weekly Table Talk (p.7). This image features a portrait of the visiting American phrenologist, Miss Jessie Allen Fowler. The image and accompanying story could best be described as an info-mercial – a genre much in use today but with a long pedigree, it seems.' So perhaps there is an important distinction to be made between a 'news' photograph taken by a photographer on the scene of a news event as opposed to a supplied, studio-type portrait. The photograph identified by Irving as 'the first' is perhaps the first in situ photograph of a newsworthy event, more akin to what we might consider 'news' today. We're happy to open the debate: is this the first news photograph ever published in Australia?