An introduction to 'Capturing Brisbane'
In 2019 I was the recipient of The Lord Mayor’s Helen Taylor Research Award for Local History, and this project is the result of that support by Brisbane City Council. I was privileged to have worked for some years under the guidance of historian Helen Taylor and gained much by the experience.
Capturing Brisbane explores the development of professional photography in the City through the biographies of the commercial photographers operating here between 1855 and 1901. Photographers have made a significant contribution towards our understanding and interpretation of the City’s past by recording the people and places around them. The familial, social, and business connections between the photographers and studios that has been revealed is also an important overlay on Brisbane’s social history.
In my earlier career working with the City’s heritage structures, it was always exciting to find an historical image of the building being researched. Dating the photograph however could prove just as problematic as dating the building itself. The trend by photographers of the era to identify themselves on the front or rear of their sometimes elaborately mounted photographs is an obvious starting point in the dating process. Simplistically, correlating the image, the information on the photographic mounts, and an accurate history of the photographer provides a way to likely date an image. There are other levels of complexity that might be overlaid on the process, not least of which was the common activity of old photographs being copied by later photographers.
This project provides one of those important research criteria - the accurate history of the photographers - and should prove useful to anyone trying to date early Brisbane photographs.