Photography in Australia

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Photograph of Dr William Bland, taken by George Baron Goodman. This photograph (c. 1845) is the earliest known surviving Australian photograph.

Photography in Australia started in the 1840s. The first photograph taken in Australia, a view of Bridge Street (now lost) is believed to have been taken by a visiting naval captain, Captain Augustin Lucas (1804-1854) in 1841. The existence of the photograph was indicated in a note published in the Australasian Chronicle on 13 April of that year. Lucas arrived in Sydney aboard the Justine, captained by his younger brother Francois Lucas.[1]

The earliest known surviving photograph taken in Australia is believed to be a daguerreotype portrait of Dr William Bland by George Baron Goodman.[2] This portrait is likely to be the one mentioned in the Sydney Morning Herald of 14 January 1845.[3]

Thorton Richards Camera House in Ballarat which opened in 1872 claims to be the oldest camera store in Australia.[4]

RMIT University in Melbourne first taught photography in 1887 as an inaugural discipline, and has done so continuously, making it the oldest ongoing photography course in the world.

Modern photography[edit]

In the mid-20th century, the photographic scene in Australia was shaped by modernist influences from abroad. This period saw an influx of people from Europe, including Wolfgang Sievers, Helmut Newton and Henry Talbot. They settled in Melbourne, bringing with them a modern aesthetic and new skills from their training at influential schools such as Berlin’s Reimann School and Contemporary School of Applied Arts. A vibrant and creative culture emerged with many photographers establishing commercial studios around the thriving arts precinct in Collins Street.

After the war, Wolfgang Sievers and Helmut Newton set up studios in Collins Street and Flinders Lane respectively. Other influential photographers such as Athol Shmith and Norman Ikin set up studios nearby.[5]

The contemporary photography industry in Australia is highly competitive. In the 2011 Australian Census, 9,549 respondents indicated photographer as their main job.


  1. ^ Marshall, Peter (2006). "The first photograph". Early Photography in Australia. (part of The New York Times). Retrieved 2006-12-13. 
  2. ^ "Daguerreotype Portrait of Dr William Bland c.1845". Treasures from the World's Great Libraries. National Library of Australia. 2001. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  3. ^ "William Bland - full record". PICMAN database. State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  4. ^ "Camera House - Ballarat". 
  5. ^ "Melbourne post-war photography". State Library of Victoria. Retrieved 4 July 2011.