The History of Photography in Perth

To tell the history of Perth photography involves a little history about the art of photography itself. The thought of capturing an image had been around for a few hundred years, with even a fictional tale detailing an accurate developing process in the late 1700’s. But the 1820’s was the pivitol point when photography as we know it came into crude existence through Frenchman, Nicéphore Niépce. It was his associate Louis Daguerre who later used a polished silver plate covered with silver iodide and exposed it to light through a camera lens to invent the Daguerreotype process, that was the first to be commercially introduced in 1839.

1853ssevansIt took 7 years for the first known ‘Daguerreotype Artist’ to visit Western Australia, when Robert Hall visited Perth, staying for a few days at Mrs Leeder’s Hotel. He charged 1 Guinea for a photo with a frame or £1/ 5s for a photo in a pressed tin, ‘Morocco’ casket, thus restricting his patronage to only the most wealthy colonialists. Unfortunately none of his captures have survived.

Being a remote outpost on the other side of a busier east coast hindered the amount of photographers who visited Perth and it wasn’t until the 1850’s that permanent studios started to pop up. New Yorker, Samuel Scrivener Evans appears to be the first in 1853 when he opened a Daguerreotype Gallery at the Castle Hotel in Fremantle before later moving to Perth. None of Evans’ photos appear to have survived either.
Evans was followed in November 1857 by the Duryea Brothers of Adelaide, working from St George’s Terrace and later Hay Street, charging 10s/6d per sitting and Frederick Herbert who set up shop in Howick Street, Perth.
They were quickly followed in August 1858 by a Mr Curtis setting up business from his home at Bazaar Terrace, Perth. Continue reading

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Solving Mystery Photos

About 8 years ago, I received a copy of some family photos from a distant relation. At the time, although I was into genealogy, I had only been doing it on and off over the previous 4 years and to be honest, I probably wasn’t that serious about it so I didn’t give them too much thought as the photos had no names attached to them.

Seven years later I found them again on an old computer hard drive but had no idea who I’d originally got them from, who the photos were of or even which particular family they belonged to. I sort of remembered them being from my Tonkin branch, but let this be a lesson to all…never rely on your memory for anything. Write things down, where/who you got items from, what information you have on them, dates, names, places, anything can be a helpful clue in the future.

These days, photos are probably one of my favourite aspects of genealogy. I love the social history side of it and to be able to see what people were wearing, the expressions on their face that may hint towards their personality, or even looking out for things such as…’hey that lady from 1870 has my nose!’ can all be really exciting. Just the mere thought of seeing a really old photo and contemplating the fact that the person in it was born in the 18th Century, can be the mind-clearing equivalent of  ‘what’s the sound of one hand clapping?’

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