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Australian art


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Unknown photographer

Freeman Brothers


active Australia 1854–1900 -


Freeman and Co was established by the professional photographers William and James who arrived in Sydney from London in 1853 and 1854 respectively. Trading as Freeman Brothers, the pair opened Freeman’s Sydney Gallery of Photographic Art in 1855, specialising initially in daguerreotype portraits. James Freeman is credited with introducing the ambrotype process to the colony in 1856, and the company adopted this medium after this date. By the 1860s, the studio was busy producing carte de visite portraits, amassing nearly 30,000 negatives by 1870. In 1866 the brothers collaborated with the renowned English photographer Victor Prout, capitalising on his fine reputation in the colony and advertising themselves as ‘photographers to their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales and His Excellency the Governor.’ After William Freeman retired around 1890, the company passed into the hands of employee William Rufus George. Under George’s management in the 1890s the firm targeted a wealthy clientele, producing expensive platinum prints. The company still operates in Sydney, specialising in corporate, wedding, architectural and portrait photography.

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


9.5 x 5.6 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

Unknown photographer

Works in the collection


Artist information

Freeman Brothers

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Judy Annear, The photograph and Australia, Sydney, Jun 2015, 246 (colour illus.).