The photograph and Australia: timeline

This timeline was produced for the exhibition The photograph and Australia (Art Gallery of NSW, 21 March – 8 June 2015). It presents key moments in the history of the photographic medium and of Australia since the colonial period.


George Goodman Caroline and son Thomas James Lawson 1845, daguerreotype, State Library of NSW, Sydney, presented 1991


Captain James Cook of the Endeavour lands at Botany Bay, an area inhabited by the Eora people, having viewed the transit of Venus and in search of the ‘Great South Land’

Joseph Banks, botanist on Cook’s 1770 voyage, recommends Botany Bay to an English parliamentary committee as a suitable site for a penal settlement

The First Fleet arrives at Botany Bay, bearing 543 convict men and 189 convict women

A smallpox epidemic kills nearly half of the Aboriginal population around the Sydney settlement

AGNSW collection Harold Cazneaux Self portrait - Harold Cazneaux 1904
AGNSW collection Harold Cazneaux Self portrait - Harold Cazneaux 1904


In England, Thomas Wedgwood uses light-sensitive chemicals to capture silhouette images on paper

The settlement of Van Diemen’s Land (modern-day Tasmania) begins

‘Australia’ (suggested by the explorer Matthew Flinders) becomes a widely used name for the southern continent

The camera lucida is invented by William Hyde Wollaston in England

A penal colony is established at a site on Redcliffe Peninsula and in 1825 moved to the Brisbane River, site of modern-day Brisbane

Tasmania is declared a separate colony from New South Wales

In France, Joseph Niépce produces the earliest fixed images using a camera

The Swan River colony is established by the British in modern-day Perth


Daguerre’s process is presented to the public in Paris and patented to restrict commercial use Fox Talbot’s photogenic drawing technique is published in England

Tasmania’s Cornwall Chronicle publishes news of the photogenic techniques of Fox Talbot and Dr Andrew Fyfe

Convict transportation from Britain to Brisbane ceases

In England, Fox Talbot develops the calotype process

Captain Augustin Lucas produces the first daguerreotype in Australia in a demonstration on Bridge Street, Sydney

English photographer Robert Hunt publishes the first treatise on photographic methods

Australia’s first professional photographer, George Goodman, opens a daguerreotype portrait studio on George Street, Sydney

The Illustrated London News, one of the world’s earliest illustrated periodicals, is first published

First elections for Legislative Council in New South Wales are held

Douglas Kilburn makes daguerreotypes of Kulin people, which are engraved and published in England in 1850

The Australasian Anti-Transportation League, the first popular national movement, is established

Convict transportation from Britain to Port Phillip (in present-day Victoria) ceases


The German photographers William and Thekla Hetzer introduce the calotype process to Sydney

In France, LD Blanquart-Evrard invents the albumen photograph

Convict transportation from Britain to New South Wales ceases

Six nations (Canada, America, France, Russia, Germany, Britain) exhibit photography at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in London

Britons Frederick Scott Archer and Peter Wickens create the ambrotype using the wet-plate collodion process

In response to popular demand, the British government separates the colonies of Queensland and Victoria from New South Wales

Gold is struck in Bathurst, New South Wales, and Ballarat, Port Phillip District

The Illustrated Sydney News becomes Australia’s first illustrated newspaper

Frenchman Adolphe Martin invents the tintype

Douglas Kilburn demonstrates the stereoscopic process in Hobart

Convict transportation from Britain to Tasmania ceases

French photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri creates the first carte de visite

Exhibitions of works to be sent to the Universelle Exposition de Paris 1855 are held in Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne, creating an early showcase for photography

The ambrotype is introduced to Australia by James Freeman

Polish naturalist and artist William Blandowski leads an expedition to northwest Victoria, the earliest known Australian scientific expedition to include photography

The Eureka Stockade is erected by goldminers at Ballarat

The wet-plate process reaches Australia

Australian photographers exhibit at the Universelle Exposition de Paris 1855

French photographer Taupenot develops the dry-plate or collodio-albumen process

The portable stereoscopic camera arrives in Australia

John Sharp and Frederick Frith take the first paper panorama using the wet-plate process in Australia, a five-part view of Hobart nearly one metre long

Due in large part to the gold rush, the Chinese population in Australia reaches 50 000

Male landowners and tenants over 21 years are granted the right to vote in the self-governing territory of South Australia, followed by Victoria (1857), New South Wales (1858) and Tasmania (1896). Britain retains control over foreign affairs and defence

In Sydney, the Freeman Brothers are the first to adopt the English practice of publishing mosaic group portraits of distinguished citizens

The tintype process reaches Australia under the name ‘melainotype’

Fothergill’s process, an early dry-plate process, is introduced to Australia

William Blackwood introduces the carte de visite to Sydney

John Walter Osborne invents the world’s first commercially viable photolithographic process while working as a photographer in the Department of Crown Lands and Survey of Victoria Charles Darwin’s On the origin of species is published


The Lambing Flat riots, a series of anti-Chinese demonstrations in the Burrangong region of New South Wales, drive 1000 Chinese miners off the fields

Solar photographic enlargers are marketed in Australia from the 1860s

The colony of South Australia grants propertied women the right to vote in local elections, and in parliamentary elections in 1894. Western Australia follows suit in 1899

Victorian government photographer RLJ Ellery begins photographing the Moon

Convict transportation to Western Australia from Britain ends, ceasing all convict transportation to Australian colonies

A team of Aboriginal cricket players tours England

An Act for the ‘Protection and Management of Aboriginal Natives’ is passed by the parliament of Victoria

The first Aboriginal children are enrolled in public schools in New South Wales

Richard Leach Maddox pioneers gelatin emulsion in Britain, paving the way for the gelatin negative

The first Amateur Photographic Society of New South Wales is formed

Photographs of the Moon are taken with the Great Melbourne Telescope and sent to Britain

Mugshots are made the standard photographic format for recording criminals and suspects in New
South Wales police departments

BO Holtermann commissions from Charles Bayliss the largest ever wet-plate panorama, each of the negatives measuring 90 x 160 cm


The gelatin dry-plate process is introduced to Australia, and the first commercially produced plates are manufactured and sold by Philip J Marchant in Adelaide

The bushranging Kelly gang is captured at Glenrowan, Victoria

The first photographs of the Orion Nebula from the southern hemisphere are taken by Joseph Turner using the Great Melbourne Telescope

Henrietta Dugdale forms the first Australian women’s suffrage society in Melbourne

The first transparent negative roll is introduced by the Eastman company in the United States as an alternative to fragile glass plates

The first Kodak camera, capable of taking 100 photographs before being returned to the manufacturer for processing, makes photography accessible to millions of amateurs

HC Russell takes the first photographs of the Milky Way in Australia using the Star Camera at the Sydney Observatory

Glossy gelatin-silver paper reaches Australia

Andrew Barrie’s Talma studios in Melbourne are the first to use electric lighting

One-guinea Pocket Kodak cameras are available in Australia. Over 3000 are sold within two months

Crown Studios in Sydney introduces colour photography to Australia with the three-exposure Joly and Ives process

Three-minute automatic photo booths are established in Sydney


The Kodak Brownie, the first mass-marketed camera, is released

The New South Wales Department of Public Works undertakes a photographic record of The Rocks area in Sydney after an outbreak of bubonic plague

The British self-governing colonies of Tasmania, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia are federated into a single nation, forming the Commonwealth of Australia

The Immigration Restriction Act privileges British and other ‘white’ migration to Australia, commencing the White Australia Policy

The Commonwealth Franchise Act grants voting and standing rights to women in Australian federal elections

Picture postcards achieve popularity, combining photography, printing and postage

Autochrome process, invented by Louis Lumière in France in 1904, is introduced to Australia

Melbourne company Baker & Rouse merges with Kodak to form Australia Kodak Limited, which opens a manufacturing plant in Abbotsford, New South Wales

Harold Cazneaux’s solo exhibition at the New South Wales Photographic Society’s Sydney rooms marks the growing acceptance of photographers as artists

The Australian Commonwealth appoints JP Campbell as its first official cinematographer Frank Hurley is appointed official photographer to Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition

World War I begins

Harold Cazneaux, Cecil Bostock and James Stening form the Sydney Camera Circle, advocating a national photographic aesthetic utilising local sunshine

Frank Hurley is appointed Australia’s first official war photographer for the Australian Imperial Force during World War I

World War I ends

The Western Australian Edith Cowan is the first woman to be elected to any Australian parliament. In 1943 Dame Enid Lyons and Senator Dorothy Tangney are the first women to be elected to federal parliament


Associated Press starts its wire photo service in the United States

The illustrated Walkabout magazine begins publication in Australia

Art in Australia publishes Max Dupain’s images informed by the functionalist aesthetic of the New Photography movement, signalling the beginning of modernist photography in Australia

Kodachrome 35mm roll film becomes available in Australia

Pix magazine, the first Australian weekly to employ North American–style presentation and photojournalism, is launched in Sydney

The Contemporary Camera Groupe is formed by Max Dupain

The Australian Aborigines Advancement League stages a day of mourning to mark the sesquicentenary of the arrival of the First Fleet

World War II begins


Damien Parer, Australia’s first combat cameraman, travels to Palestine with the Australian Imperial Force

Photographer Frank Hurley documents the Australian Imperial Force in Palestine

Photographer Max Dupain enlists in the Camouflage Unit, Department of Home Security

World War II ends

Australian Geoffrey Powell publishes Photography: a social weapon, arguing photographers have a responsibility to draw attention to social realities

The Institute of Photographic Illustrators, aimed at raising the standard of photography, is formed in Sydney

In the United States, Edwin Land invents the Polaroid camera

The Cold War begins

The 35mm Nikon camera is introduced in Japan

The White Australia policy is relaxed by the Menzies government, starting the gradual abolition of racially motivated immigration policies

The Melbourne Argus is the first daily newspaper in the world to publish colour photographs

Jack Cato’s The story of the camera in Australia is published in Melbourne

Frank Hurley’s Australia: a camera study is published in Sydney

In the United States, Xerox introduces the first office photocopier

The Second Indo-China War (known in Australia as the Vietnam War) begins

The United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) launches Sputnik I and II, the first satellites

The exhibition Family of man, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA), tours Australia, and includes the work of Australian photographers David Moore and Laurence Le Guay


The Great Melbourne Telescope is rebuilt at Mount Stromlo Observatory near Canberra, with a 1.25-metre glass mirror and new controls

Kodak makes the first Instamatic cameras and colour Polaroids are introduced

Mervyn Bishop begins a cadetship at the Sydney Morning Herald, later becoming Australia’s first Indigenous press photographer

Push-button telephones and the Picturephone service come into use

Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 lands on the Moon, as does the United States’ spacecraft Surveyor I which transmits more than 11 000 television images of the terrain

Australia’s first satellite WRESAT 1 is launched from Woomera Rocket Range in South Australia

A federal referendum removes discriminatory references to Indigenous people from the Australian Constitution

The Earth is photographed from the Moon

Pictures of the Apollo XI crew’s Moon walk are relayed to the world by the Parkes radio telescope


Neville Bonner becomes the first Indigenous parliamentarian

The National Gallery of Victoria opens the first curatorial photography department in an Australian art museum

The Australian Centre for Photography opens in Sydney and engages John Szarkowski, director of photography at MoMA, New York, to participate in a nationwide tour

A USSR space-probe lands on Mars, and the United States’ Mariner transmits detailed pictures of Venus and Mercury

Steven Sasson at Eastman Kodak develops the first digital camera using an image sensor

The Fall of Saigon ends the Vietnam War

The Aboriginal Land Rights Act allows for the return of Commonwealth lands to traditional owners

Japan launches a geostationary satellite to provide cloud-cover pictures of Australia to the Bureau of Meteorology

Light vision: Australia’s international photography magazine is founded in Melbourne


Photodiscourse: critical thought and practice in photography, edited by Kurt Brereton, is published by Sydney College of the Arts

Sony demonstrates Mavica, the first commercial camera with electronic picture-storage rather than film

Peter Dombrovski’s photograph Rock Island bend is used as a campaign image for conservation groups protesting against the damming of the Franklin and Gordon rivers in Tasmania

Photofile magazine is launched by the Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney

NADOC ’86 Exhibition of Aboriginal and Islander Photographers, the first exhibition by Indigenous photographers, is shown at Aboriginal Artists Gallery, Sydney

Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative Gallery is established by Brenda L Croft, Tracey Moffatt and Michael Riley to promote urban Aboriginal art

The Bicentenary of the arrival of the First Fleet is celebrated in Australia, spurring massive protests and the largest ever demonstrations for land rights

Gael Newton’s Shades of light: photography and Australia 1839–1988 and Anne-Marie Willis’s Picturing Australia: a history of photography are published

The first portable digital camera, the Fuji DS–X, is commercially marketed in Japan

Dissolution of the USSR and the end of the Cold War

The Great Melbourne Telescope is rebuilt for the MACHO project, a search for the evidence of dark matter

Michael Aird’s Portraits of our elders is published in South Brisbane

Wayne Ludbey’s photograph of Aboriginal footballer Nicky Winmar’s historic protest against racial taunts is published in the Age

The Native Title Act is founded to facilitate the recognition and protection of traditional land ownership

The internet moves out of universities and into commercial use

Australians vote ‘no’ in a referendum on whether Australia should become a republic


The world’s first camera phone, the J-Phone, is released in Japan

The development of new Photoshop software techniques leads to the rise of the internet meme

The federal government refuses to allow the Norwegian freighter Tampa, carrying rescued asylum seekers, into Australian waters

Allegations supposedly proven in 2001 by widely circulated photographs that asylum seekers rescued by the Tampa had thrown children overboard to ensure passage to Australia, are dismissed

Social networking sites Facebook and Flickr emerge with image-database functions

Kodak Australia closes its manufacturing plant in Melbourne

Apple releases the first generation iPhone

Google Street View is launched, providing panoramic images of cities in the United States taken using nine directional cameras at a height of around three metres

Photographs of Australian cities are added to Google Street View

The photo-sharing application Instagram is launched and attracts over a million users within its first six months

Google Inc engineers the reverse image search, which allows internet users to trace the origin of and information about photographs used for advertising and other purposes

Snapchat, a photo-messaging application, is developed by Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy, students at Stanford University

Over 300 million photographs are uploaded to Facebook every day, more than 20 times the total number of analogue photographs held by the United States’ Library of Congress

‘Selfie’ is included in the online version of the Oxford English dictionary

Google Glass, a wearable computer with a head-mounted optical display, goes on sale

AGNSW collection Sue Ford Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006) 2008
AGNSW collection Sue Ford Self-portrait with camera (1960-2006) 2008

This is one of the 47 photographs in this work. Click on the image to view them all

AGNSW collection Robyn Stacey Chatelaine 2010, printed 2011
AGNSW collection Robyn Stacey Chatelaine 2010, printed 2011