This listing of the photographers and studios operating in Brisbane from 1855 to 1901, is an abridged version of the print publication 'Capturing Brisbane'.
Scottish Photographic Institute
The Scottish Photographic Institute opened in Stanley Street, South Brisbane in December 1887. It was advertised as ‘The Workingman’s cheap portrait rooms.’ Its proprietor has not been identified. There is no further mention of the Institute. It may have been the shortest-lived photographic business in Brisbane.
Sansum, John George Samson
John (also known as George) Sansum was born in Sydney and working as a photographer there by at least 1881. He left Sydney circa 1885, was in Bathurst in 1889, and in Brisbane by September 1892 and employed by Poul Poulsen. He then went to work for Tosca Studio sometime after 1896, and by the following year had taken over as manager of the Charters Towers branch of that firm. When it sold in mid-1901 it appears John Samsun took the opportunity to leave the industry.
Scholefield, Walter Hamilton
Walter Scholefield was born in England and emigrated to Australia in the early 1880s. He was living in Petrie Terrace, Brisbane by 1885, though nothing more is known of his working life until around 1899 when he was recorded as a photo-enlarger. Walter was admitted into the Brisbane Hospital in January 1903 and died days later. He was 42 years old.
Seavey & Keys
Christian Keys moved to Brisbane in 1896 and established the photographic company Seavey & Keys. The firm took over the former studio of Edward Hutchison in Queen Street opposite the Post Office and opened on 12 September 1896. Their newspaper advertising took the form of small stories or conversations to catch the reader’s attention. Seavey & Keys also opened until 9:30pm, enabling workers or families to conveniently access their service.
Reference however to the firm having a ‘well-earned reputation in the South’ was misleading at best. Seavey is a mystery, and no record has come to light of him in Brisbane or elsewhere at the time. The only mention of him is in the firm’s name. He may have been a silent partner. Perhaps he was non-existent, Seavey may simply have been the spelling of CV Keys’ first two initials.
Indoor flashlight photography in public spaces was a new phenomenon introduced by the firm. Photographs taken inside the Opera House at the Potter-Bellow Company’s performance of Romeo and Juliet in October were quite popular. In the studio flashlights were used for night-time portraiture. Keys and was not there when the firm formally ceased to operate on 17 March 1897, having left Brisbane in mid-February, possibly leaving his photographic assistant Hubert Dyer to close the business.
Shaw & Fitzgibbon
Shaw and J Fitzgibbon were the partners of this company which operated between 1895 and 1896. The business was located at 150 Elizabeth Street, Brisbane, next to the Ulster Hotel. They were listed as photographers in a trade directory. There is insufficient evidence to identify either partner. Brief advertisements indicate they were operating under a canvassing system; however nothing is known of the company’s products.
James Shaw emigrated from Ireland to Queensland with parents and siblings. The family settled in Melbourne Street, South Brisbane. James commenced a photographic business there around 1892, probably in Shaw’s Building owned by his father. In February 1896 he offered photographs of the steamer Pearl striking the Lucinda in the Brisbane River, though it was most likely an artist’s impression. Later that year his advertisements offered enamelled cabinet photographs described as the ‘finest art photographs in Brisbane’.
He relocated in 1899, opening Shaw’s Photographic Studio in Victoria Place, Melbourne Street in South Brisbane on 1 April. Claiming only high-class work, Shaw noted he had new artists, new accessories, and new scenery for the studio. The new studio was also the site of his wedding breakfast in 1900. The photographic business appears to have operated successfully until November 1909 when James Shaw passed away.
Little evidence has been found to positively identify Robert Shaw. Photographs from Brisbane and one from Toowoomba attributed to Robert Shaw indicate he was in Queensland during the 1890s. He married a Rockhampton girl in Sydney during 1899 and was living in Brisbane by 1901. Moving to Rockhampton he found work as a photographer in 1902 but then lost his job the following year. He deserted his wife in Rockhampton and returned to Sydney where he was reported to have been working as a photographer. Nothing further is known of him.
Thomas Shephard arrived in Sydney from England in June 1875. His movements for the next decade or so have proven difficult to trace. He was in Brisbane by 1889 when he formed a business partnership with John Thurlow as Thurlow & Shephard. Shephard is believed to have brought the photographic skills to the business. The partners operated the New South Wales Photographic Company from Petrie Terrace, and the New Photo Company from George and Queen Streets, Brisbane. The business folded after their Petrie Terrace premises was destroyed by fire in March 1896. Shephard resided in Wharf Street, Kangaroo Point from at least 1897, and continued to work as a photographer into the early 20th century.
Believed to have been born in Xiangshan, China around 1867, Wah Sing appeared in Brisbane records in late 1889. He appears to have been a craftsman skilled in electro-plating, gilding, cabinetmaking and photography, and his business premises was in Ann Street, Fortitude Valley, between Ballow and Constance Streets.
Directories for 1890 also note him as CH Warsing. Under that name he opened a photographic studio at 91 George Street, Brisbane in early 1892. He offered high class portraits, enlargements, and framed oil painted portraits. His studio had closed by the end of the year, and he moved back to premises in Ann Street, Fortitude Valley perhaps relinquishing commercial photography. By April 1894 he was only noted as a cabinet maker when his stock-in-trade was auctioned based on a stated intent to leave the colony. Wah Sing died in Brisbane in 1898.
Daguerrean artist D Smith arrived in Brisbane in 1856. His forename was never recorded. Smith opened a studio above Maurice & Co’s auction rooms in Queen Street, Brisbane on 13 October 1856. He moved to Shapcott’s cottage in Ann Street by 25 October, and there he stayed until late December. There is no record of him after that time, giving rise to the theory he was a travelling photographer and simply moved on. No trace of him has been noted elsewhere in Queensland.
Robert Smith, photographer, resided or worked on the corner of Terrace Street and Latrobe Terrace, Upper Paddington from about 1889. He is known to have photographed the Enoggera Terrace Presbyterian Sabbath School in May 1890. Further details have not been found.
Smith, William Adam
Scottish born William Smith arrived in Brisbane in January 1865. He claimed to have worked with Thomas Ham & Co. By June 1865 however Smith was advertising as a photographer operating from Bowen House in George Street, Brisbane, and offering carte-de-visite. He also ran an employment agency from the same address. He was assisting John Funnell by November 1865 in a photographic studio located in Cockerell’s Buildings, Ann Street in Fortitude Valley. Smith moved to Ipswich and commenced work for the municipality as a rate collector in June 1866.
Michael Somers (sometimes Sommers) arrived in Rockhampton in 1879 and made his way to Brisbane where he married in 1887. He was managing the Federal Portrait Enlarging Company based in Linton Street, Kangaroo Point from early 1889. By November of that year photographers William True Bennett and Thomas Matthews were also living in the same street. It might be speculated there may have been some connection between them. Somers had moved to East Brisbane by 1890 and was involved in with photographic enlargement until at least 1892, after which he appears to have left the business to become an insurance collector.
Stark, William John
Will Stark was in Brisbane in late 1884 where he joined Ellis Sutton in a brief partnership as Sutton & Stark, in Queen Street. He was living on Shaftson Road, Kangaroo Point in 1885. By August of that year he had taken to the road and was in Warwick and billing himself as ‘The Wandering Photographer’. He moved on to Leyburn, Inglewood, Goondiwindi, and Toowoomba, finally settling at Warwick in 1887. Stark made his way to Southport by 1900 continuing as a photographer there until his death in 1914.
Stiebel, B L
A photographic artist allegedly from England, Stiebel established a short-term studio in Queen Street, Brisbane opposite the Court House in mid-July 1860. Only his initials are known. He was a friend of or had some business arrangement with photographer Robert McClelland. Stiebel advertised his use of the best photographic equipment and French chemicals, and in addition to portraits was willing to photograph residences or objects. Saturday August 25, 1860 was the last day of operation of Stiebel’s gallery in Brisbane. He offered a camera for sale a week later but stayed in Brisbane until October. He may have moved on to Maryborough by the end of the year, but there is otherwise no further information on his movements.
Born in England, Ellis Sutton was apprenticed to a draper and followed that trade until he emigrated to Brisbane in October 1883. From March 1884 Sutton was working as a photographer, though whether for himself or for others is unknown. He commenced his own photographic studio in the former Gove & Allen studio at 7 Queen Street, Brisbane around September 1884, possibly with Will Stark. The firm of Sutton & Stark was briefly in operation before it became E Sutton & Co (qv) in October 1884, running the People’s Photo Gallery at the Queen Street address. It is unclear whether the change of name reflected Stark leaving the business.
Ellis Sutton worked from the Queen Street address until February 1885. He moved from there to a studio in Stanley Street, South Brisbane. He advertised in November 1885 for a travelling partner with a knowledge of photography, and likely left Brisbane soon afterwards. For some time, he was employed as a travelling photographer by Poul Poulsen. Sutton travelled across Queensland as a photographer until the latter part of 1891, settling first in Blackall and taking up the Isisford mail contract. He later moved to Isisford.
Sutton, E & Co
E Sutton & Co was formed by Ellis Sutton at 7 Queen Street Brisbane and operated for at least the month of October 1884. It appears to have succeeded Sutton & Stark. Advertisements suggest the company specialised in ‘aesthetic’ gem pictures. Ellis Sutton does not appear to have used the company name after that month.
George Swan is recorded as a photographer residing in Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, between Gotha and Gipps Streets, during 1889. He had moved on by November 1889, and further trace of him has been found.
Sweet, Samuel White
Samuel Sweet was born in England and entered the Royal Navy. With his wife and extended family Sweet arrived in Brisbane in February 1864. An amateur photographer while in England he soon established a photographic studio in South Brisbane and by June was advertising his business. His obvious leaning was towards landscapes, and a few were described in detail in the local newspaper, including a giant fig tree near Seventeen Mile Rocks. Copies were sold at Slater’s bookshop in Queen Street.
After nearly two years Sweet left Brisbane in early 1866 and was taking photographs in Sydney by June, and then in Adelaide by the end of the year. His pioneering career as a landscape photographer in that colony has led to the sobriquet as the father of professional landscape photography in South Australia.