Capturing the city: Photos commissioned by the Sydney Council / Talk, 21 May

Taylor Square
Taylor Square Fruit and Vegetable Palace, Flinders Street Darlinghurst, 1916 (source: City of Sydney Library: NSCA CRS 51/4430)

Join historian Laila Ellmoos to find out how photography was used to document changes to Sydney’s built form.

Photography and the modern city

Join historian Laila Ellmoos and investigate how photography was used to document changes to Sydney in the first decades of the 20th century. Sydney was on the verge of great change in 1900. The city’s built landscape was rapidly being urbanised with, modern buildings improvements to sanitation and new infrastructure. Old buildings were being demolished at a rapid pace, leading to a sense among some that the city’s history was being lost. The council began hiring professional photographers to document this profound transformation. ‘Demolition Books’ is now a key photographic collection held in the City of Sydney Archives, comprising almost 5,000 photographs and associated glass plate negatives.

Like the council, many individuals and government authorities used the visual medium of photography to document urban change. In this talk, Laila will show and discuss images from the ‘Demolition Books’ series and compare them with contemporary photographs that show Sydney’s transition to a modern city.

Laila Ellmoos is a professional historian who is passionate about communicating history to a wide range of audiences through exhibitions, talks and the written word. She is a historian at the City of Sydney, and a longstanding member of the Professional Historians Association of NSW & ACT.

Part of the Developing Sydney exhibition

This exhibition showcases photographs commissioned by Sydney Municipal Council from 1900 to 1920.

The City Building Surveyor’s Department used photography to document the city’s profound transformation in the first 2 decades of the 20th century. These photographs inadvertently capture the largely working class neighborhoods and people being displaced by commercial and government redevelopment.

The City Building Surveyor’s Condemnation and Demolition Books is a key photographic collection held in the City Archives comprising almost 5000 photographs and associated glass plate negatives.

If you can’t make it to Customs House, we invite you to explore the streets of Sydney in the early 20th century through a virtual tour.

To explore the City of Sydney’s Archives and History resources go to archives.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au

Curator Laila Ellmoos

To explore the City of Sydney’s Archives and History resources, go to the City of Sydney Archives.

Booking options

Attend the event at Customs House Library – Covid safety

The health and safety of everyone at City of Sydney venues is our top priority. If you plan to visit, you must be familiar with the procedures in place and follow Covid-safe rules during your visit. See our website for the most up-to-date entry requirements and what to expect when visiting.

This event will be Auslan interpreted.

Attend the event online

To join the session live on Zoom, choose this option when you book. Please read your booking confirmation carefully to join the event on Zoom. You’ll need to install Zoom free on your computer or device to take part.

This event will be Auslan interpreted. To access the Auslan interpreting, you will need to use Zoom on a computer.

Date and time

Sat., 21 May 2022
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm AEST

Location

Customs House Library – L1 Barnet Long Room
31 Alfred Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Australia
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