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Australian art


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Alfred K Bock


1835 - 1920


Alfred Bock is distinguished as the first known Australian-born photographer. Bock was born in Hobart Town in 1835 to Mary Ann Cameron, née Spencer, who lived with, and eventually married, Thomas Bock. Alfred was given Thomas’s surname and regarded him as his natural father. Thomas Bock taught Alfred painting, drawing and photography, and he assisted his stepfather in his daguerreotype business until establishing his own studio in 1855. Despite ongoing financial difficulties (he was announced insolvent in 1857 and again in 1865) Bock succeeded in introducing the carte de visite to Hobart in 1861 and became expert in the sennotype process. In addition to his experimentation with photomechanical techniques, he also hand-coloured portraits and experimented with over-painting photographs. Bock showed his work at the London International Exhibition (1873), the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition (1876), the Sandhurst (Bendigo) Industrial Exhibition (1879), the Adelaide International Exhibition (1887) and the Paris International Exhibition (1889) and received several awards.

A carte de visite is a stiff card of about 10 x 6.4 cm, with an attached paper photograph, invented in 1854 by André-Adolphe-Eugène Disderi. They were introduced into Australia in 1859 by William Blackwood with albums arriving in 1860, aiding the collection and distribution of multiple cartes. Cartes were usually portraits and were made by the millions worldwide. Multi-lens, or ‘multiplying’ cameras were introduced in the 1860s, which were capable of producing from 2 to 32 images in quick succession, dramatically increasing the number of cartes de visite that could be made from a single photographic plate. They were easily reproduced by making paper contact prints from the glass plates, which were then cut and pasted to card.




Media category


Materials used

carte de visite


8.7 x 5.3 cm image; 10.4 x 6.3 cm mount card

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 2014


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Alfred K Bock

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 248 (colour illus.).