During the second half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century there were a number of significant exponents of theatrical photography. In Great Britain, Elliott & Fry, Alfred Ellis and W. & D. Downey were conspicuous; while in America, Mathew Brady, Napoleon Sarony and Joseph Byron were the undisputed leaders in the field; and in Europe names like Nadar and Charles Reutlinger resonated. In Australia, perhaps the most famous was H. Walter Barnett of the Falk studios who went on to enjoy success in London as a society photographer. Barnett’s photographs are to be found in photographic anthologies and have been the subject of major exhibitions. Another photographer, Andrew Barrie, founder of the Talma studio still remains in the shadows. From 1892 to the 1930s, Talma was a household name and had a reputation for high-quality work. Barrie was not only a highly-skilled craftsman, but his drive and inventiveness gave Talma a competitive edge. His studio was the first to be lit by electric light and one of the first commercial studios in Australia to work with flashlight. He invested in the latest technologies in order to provide his clients with access to the best photographic solutions and was an early adopter of the postcard as a means of distributing his images. Unlike Barnett, he is not represented in the Australian Dictionary of Biography and he receives only a passing reference in The Mechanical Eye in Australia and Australians Behind the Camera. For reasons not known, his death in 1937 passed without public notice. His only major acknowledgement to date is in Jack Cato’s The Story of the Camera in Australia, first published in 1955. From its opening in 1892, the Talma studio in Swanston Street, Melbourne, was a premier destination for the theatrical profession, and for almost forty years, Barrie and his assistants captured the likeness of many thousands of sitters.
In the 1951 British film The Magic Box, a bio-pic of the life of pioneer film maker William Friese Greene (1855-1921), a scene shows the young Greene working as a photographic assistant in the studio of Marcus Guttenberg. He is charming to the clients as he encourages more natural poses—something that infuriates his boss—and as sitters remain still and count up to 22, he asks his boss why he hasn’t considered buying one of the newer cameras with a quicker exposure time. As an evocation of a Victorian photographer’s studio, albeit recreated some 70 years later, it provides a window into the past: the clamps to hold the sitters’ heads in position, the scenic canvas back cloth and potted palms used to dress the scene, and the large tripod camera almost the size of a person.
One can imagine Andrew Barrie experiencing something similar in his role as an assistant at Stewart & Co. in Melbourne; full of youthful enthusiasm, keen to experiment with lighting and techniques, and create more artistic poses. However unlike Greene’s boss, Robert Stewart encouraged the young Barrie and allowed his talent as a photographer—and as an artist—to flourish.
Andrew Barrie’s birthplace, Campsie, Lennoxtown in Stirlingshire, near Glasgow. This photograph was taken by Barrie’s son Colin in the 1970s during a family visit.
Courtesy of Andrew Barrie.
One of several medals won by a youthful Andrew Barrie for his photography—from the Sandhurst [Bendigo] Industrial Exhibition of 1879.
Courtesy of Andrew Barrie.
Born on 8 October 1859 at Campsie, Lennoxtown in Stirlingshire, not far from Glasgow, Barrie was the second child of Andrew Barrie and his wife Mary Graham. His sister Mary was ten years his senior. Before he was two years old, his family decided to leave Scotland and travel to Australia, arriving in Melbourne aboard the Oithona in December 1861. In the 1860s, the Victorian gold fields were still an attraction and the Barries settled in Ballarat. By the late 1870s they had moved to Melbourne.
As a teenager, Barrie was already a serious amateur photographer and member of the Photographic Society of Victoria. He showed considerable talent from an early age, winning medals at juvenile exhibitions in Ballarat, Sandhurst, Geelong and Melbourne. He also took classes at the University of Melbourne’s School of Chemistry and at the National Gallery School.
Robert Stewart, proprietor and founder of Stewart & Co., Melbourne. Photograph by Falk Studios, Melbourne.
This photograph was published in The Australasian Photo-Review, 22 August 1912, p. 469.
Stewart & Co.’s logo, back of a carte-de-visite mount, c.1880s.
State Library Victoria, H2005.34/2541A, H2005.34/2541A
Studio portrait of Andrew Barrie, c.1880s. Copy of a photograph by Stewart & Co., Melbourne.
Courtesy Andrew Barrie.
British tenor singer C.M. Leumane, 1890. Cabinet photograph by Stewart & Co., Melbourne. It is very likely that this photograph was taken by Andrew Barrie. Note the similarity of the background foliage with the portrait of Barrie (left).
State Library of New South Wales, P1/973, http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110324392
Barrie soon found himself at the studio of Stewart & Co. at 217 Bourke Street, in the middle of Melbourne’s theatre district. At various times, Stewart’s also had branches at 219 and 42 Bourke Street. Founded in 1871 by Robert Stewart (1838-1912), a ginger-haired Englishman, the company grew rapidly, mass producing large quantities of inexpensive cabinet cards for a portrait-hungry public. A kindly man by all accounts, Stewart trained as an architect in England, but on arriving in Sydney in the early 1860s set up a photography business, relocating to Melbourne ten years later.
At Stewart & Co., Barrie met H. Walter Barnett (1962-1934) and Tom Roberts (1856-1931), both men of considerable artistic talent, who were also at the beginning of their careers. Barnett was employed as a studio assistant from about 1875 to 1880, and after a short stint in Hobart at the Elite Studios, which he co-ran with Harold Riise, he left for London via New York. There he gained further experience with the celebrated firm of W. & D. Downey. On his return to Australia in 1886, he established the prestigious Falk studios. Roberts, who went on to become a key figure in Australia’s Heidelberg School of painters, worked at Stewart’s on and off between 1881 and 1889, primarily as a means of supporting his ambitions as a painter.
Stewart’s establishment was one of many similar photographic studios in Melbourne that specialised in portraiture. From the mid-1850s photographic portraits were steadily replacing painted portraits as the preferred means of capturing a likeness—and it was also cheaper and less time consuming for the sitter. Nevertheless, many artists were quick to dismiss photography as too mechanical and lacking in soul. Tom Roberts for example believed that ‘oil paint offered entry into dimensions of personality not obtainable through photography’.
By 1885 Barrie had become a senior partner at Stewart & Co., and following Stewart’s retirement in 1892, he became the new owner, paying £5000 for the business. Under Barrie’s leadership the firm’s artistic quality improved and they developed a reputation for ‘natural-looking’ portraits.
Sir Henry Weedon, 1908, Barrie’s business partner. Seen here in his Mayoral robes, he was Lord Mayor of Melbourne, 1905-1908. He was knighted in 1908. Painting by Vincenzo Brun.
City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection, http://citycollection.melbourne.vic.gov.au/portrait-of-cr-sir-henry-weedon-lord-mayor-1905-08/
This wood engraving by A.C. Cooke showing Buxton’s new premises in Swanston Street was published in the Australasian Sketcher, 21 October 1885.
State Library Victoria, A/S21/10/85/173, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/240318
In 1892, Barrie formed a partnership with Henry Weedon (1859-1921), an astute businessman and aspiring politician. Barrie and Weedon continued to maintain an interest in Stewart & Co. which operated until the 1910s with branches variously at 40 and 284 Bourke Street.
In mid-1892, the two partners leased a new studio in Swanston Street, the former premises of Grouzelle & Co., artistic photographers. The studio’s owner Louis Grouzelle (1853-1931) had been declared insolvent in May 1892 and was forced to vacate the premises.
The new business of Talma & Co.—named most probably after Napoleon Bonaparte’s favourite actor François-Joseph Talma (1763-1826)—launched in October 1892.
Buxton’s building at 119 Swanston Street, opposite the Melbourne Town Hall, was located on Melbourne’s fashionable ‘Block’ which also included the newly-opened Block Arcade in Collins Street. ‘Doing the Block’ was a popular activity in Melbourne, and a photographer’s display window was just the thing to attract the attention of society ladies and gentlemen.
Designed by W.S. Law in the French Second Empire style, with a distinctive mansard roof, the five-storey building opened in October 1885 as the new home for Buxton’s Artistic Stationery Co., a company founded by James Thomas Buxton (1856-1930), a Geelong-born businessman and Melbourne City Councillor. The building soon became a hub for Melbourne’s artistic community, housing not only Buxton’s stationery and fancy goods business, but printing, engraving and embossing departments, as well as an exhibition gallery and photographer’s studio. In 1889, the second-floor gallery hosted an exhibition by Melbourne’s Heidelberg school of artists, the seminal 9" x 5" exhibition, which featured works by Tom Roberts, Charles Conder, Arthur Streeton among others, painted on the backs of wooden cigar box lids.
At Buxton’s, Barrie and Weedon moved into a studio on the first floor. Whereas most photographers occupied the roof tops of buildings so they could capitalise on access to natural light through the installation of sloping plate glass windows and skylights, Barrie had no need of this. He was the first commercial photographer in Australia to use electric light, installing a powerful ‘6000 candle power’ lamp that enabled him to take photographs on the dullest of days and at night time. The invention of W. Clayton Joel, a Melbourne-based electrical engineer, and patented as Joel Patent Lamps, the lamp provided a strong, clear light that mimicked daylight. Such was the power of the lamp that exposure time for the photographic plates was reduced to only two seconds.
During the early 1890s, the Melbourne land boom brought about by the goldrushes of the 1850s came to a spectacular end, with many thousands of businesses declared bankrupt, banks failing and shareholders losing their investments. Nevertheless many of the cannier investors managed to avoid bankruptcy, Barrie and Weedon among them as they seem to have struck some sort of financial arrangement with Thomas Baker (1854-1928) of Austral Laboratory, one of their major suppliers, which saw Baker and another man, accountant Sidney Lathbury Danby (1864-1897), appointed trustees of Talma and Stewart & Co. and responsible for any claims by creditors. This arrangement allowed Barrie and Weedon to continue trading and for their businesses to ride out the crash.
In the mid-1890s James Thomas Buxton sold his stationery business to Edward Groves, and by 1900 had closed the gallery, thus ending his association with a building once synonymous with Melbourne’s artistic community. With Groves’ acquisition of the Artistic Stationery Co., the ‘Buxton’s’ sign that adorned the building was replaced by one that read ‘Talma’s’. By the turn of the century, Barrie and Weedon’s business occupied much of the building, with Talma & Co. on the first floor, and the Talma studios (developing and dark rooms) on the second and third floors. In 1897, they sublet rooms on the first floor to the Oriental Beauty Parlours, and from about 1909 they also occupied the fourth floor.
Advertising card, c.1892.
Courtesy of the City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection.
Unknown sitter, c.1892. Many of these early cabinet photographs proudly boasted ‘Taken by Electric Light’. Photograph by Talma, Melbourne.
Courtesy of the City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection.
Albumen photograph of vocalist Marie Halton, 1892.
Photograph album of Australian actors and actresses compiled by Gordon Ireland, State Library Victoria, MS 6135, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/180180
A cropped version of the same image as a carte-de-visite. Marie Halton was performing in comic opera in Australia between January and July 1892.
Courtesy of the City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection.
During the 1880s, the cabinet card became the most popular way to mount and display photographs, replacing the smaller carte-de-visite. Utilising the same process as the carte-de-visite—a thin photographic print mounted on a card—the major difference was the size. Whereas the carte-de-visite comprised a 2.125" x 3.5" (54 mm x 89 mm ) photograph on a 2.5" x 4" (64 mm x 100 mm) mount, the larger cabinet photograph measured 4" x 5.5" (108 mm x 165 mm ) on a 4.25" x 6.5" (111 mm x 170 mm) mount. Larger still was the Paris panel, first used by Talma in 1894. Approximately double the size of a cabinet, the Paris panel mount measured 7.2" x 10" (185 mm x 254 mm).
Often, in addition to including the photographer’s name or logo on the front, mounts were decorated with elaborate borders and enhanced by the use of gold or other colours. The ‘Talma’ logo, which was printed on the bottom left hand side of the photographic mounts, remained fairly consistent over the years, with different designs being used for the various mount sizes. The rear of the mount provided further opportunity for the photographer to advertise his business, but examples of surviving Talma cards show only a logo on the front of the card.
Logo used typically on the early 1890s carte-de-visite mount.
Logo used on cabinet and Paris panel mounts throughout the 1890s and into the early 1900s.
Alternative version of the above logo, beige lettering on a brown background.
Logo from a Paris panel mount, used during the early 1900s.
Advertising card, c.1895.
Courtesy of the City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection.
In early 1895, Talma became the first photographic studio in Australia capable of taking almost life-size portraits. The gigantic ‘shadowcatcher’ as it was known, cost £600, and according to publicity was ‘capable of taking portraits or groups direct 5-feet square’ (1.5 metres square). This giant camera was said to be one of only three of its type in the world, one belonging to a ‘leading New York photographer’ and the other in Vienna. It utilised glass plate negatives, 50" x 41.3" (1270 mm x 1050 mm), manufactured and sanitized by Thomas Baker of the Austral Laboratory.
Albumen cabinet photograph of Alice Leamar, a member of the London Gaiety Company, c.1893. Photograph by Talma, Melbourne.
State Library of New South Wales, P1/975, http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/IE1662147
Paris panel photograph of British actress Maud Jeffries in costume as Kate Cregeen in The Manxman, 1898. Photograph by Talma, Melbourne
State Library of New South Wales, P1/837, http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110344365
Under Barrie’s direction, Talma became one of Melbourne’s leading portrait studios, with a large number of their clients drawn from the theatrical professions.
As photographer Jack Cato notes in The Story of the Camera in Australia, Barrie’s work was in a ‘high key’ producing images of great refinement, a style ‘particularly suitable to women’. In contrast, H. Walter Barnett worked in ‘deep dramatic tones’. Barnett’s Falk studios, which also specialised in theatrical portraiture, was Barrie’s major rival.
One of Talma’s first theatrical clients was Florence Brough of the Brough and Boucicault Comedy Company. She visited the studios in October 1892 when she was photographed ‘in a series of situations’ sitting on a couch with a handsome screen behind.
Almost all the leading identities in the acting profession at the time had their likeness taken by Talma. Julius Knight, Maud Jeffries, Wilson Barrett, Mrs Brown Potter, Tittell Brune and Nance O’Neil were just some of the visiting celebrities who called in at the Talma studio, as did local performers including Carrie Moore, Violet Varley, Nellie Stewart and Mrs Maesmore Morris.
Barrie’s Platinotype prints were praised for their life-like qualities. In April 1895, having enlarged the reception room at his Swanston Street premises, Barrie held an exhibition of portraits that included not only leading members of the Gaiety Company, but prominent society people: ‘From immense pictures to Paris panels this series ranges. One of the finest exhibitions of photographs that has ever been made in Melbourne is now being held by Talma on the Block, where crowds assembled to con [connaître?] the artistic and flattering presentments that Talma is noted for.’
In 1898, when some new pictures of Maud Jeffries were released, the Melbourne Punch reported:
The average photographer can produce a likeness of his sitter, but the real artist makes a ‘picture’ as well as a photograph. Some striking proofs of this fact are now before us in the shape of a series of photographs of Miss Maud Jeffries in various characters in which she had appeared during the Wilson Barrett season. These pictures have been taken by Talma and Co. of Swanston-street. The beautiful face of the talented actress is accorded full justice, and the different poses are graceful and artistic. Talma and Co. had a good subject in Miss Jeffries, and they have done her and themselves credit in these artistic pictures.
Portrait of Edward Ernest Gray, Talma’s Sydney representative, published in The Sydney Mail, 7 June 1911, p. 36.
Paris panel photograph of American actress Nance O’Neil in costume as Peg Woffington in Masks and Faces, c.1900. Photograph by Talma & Co., Sydney—most probably taken by E.E. Gray.
State Library of New South Wales, P1/1266, http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110324282
In March 1899, Talma opened a branch in Sydney. With the bank collapse in Melbourne in the early 1890s, the centre of business and theatrical activity had moved north to Sydney. Theatrical firm J.C. Williamson Ltd had relocated its headquarters to Sydney as had most of the large mercantile corporations.
The opening of the Sydney studio was a glamorous and clamorous affair. According to reports in the newspapers as soon as the doors opened hundreds of women tried to cram into the lift, keen to be the first to see the new studio space in Messrs Sands and Co.’s new building at 374 George Street, adjacent to the GPO and not far from Barnett’s Falk studios in the Royal Arcade.
Henry Weedon travelled to Sydney for the launch. Among the guests who attended the opening were many theatricals, including Pattie Browne, Rose Musgrove, Florence and Beatrice Perry, and Muriel Matters.
Actress Emily Soldene writing in the Sydney Evening News (16 March 1899) described the scene at the opening:
A crowd right out into George-street. Everybody blocking the gangway looking at the pictures … At last I got into the elevator. Oh didn’t I tell you. Why the glorified birdcage that carries and wafts you up high—still higher—way up—on the top, to the new and magnificent studios of Talma Photographic Company. A dream of a studio. Turkey carpets, Persian rugs and ottomans and cunning chairs that make one feel on good terms with all the world, and give one a charming expression … Walking through the spacious galleries and the comfortable dressing-rooms, everything thought of—nothing forgotten. I could not help thinking of the old days, when being photographed meant something stuffy, dusty, and dreadfully tiring.
In addition to commodious dressing rooms, the top-floor studio also featured ‘well fitted-up dark rooms, printing and enlarging rooms’.
Edward Ernest Gray (1869-1912) took on the role of managing director and principal photographer, and most likely had a financial interest in the running of the studio. Gray had spent the last fifteen years at the Falk studios, having joined Barnett when he first opened at the Royal Arcade in the 1880s. When Gray died suddenly on 2 June 1911, aged just 44, one obituarist noted:
With the exception of Mr. [Mark] Blow of the Crown Studios probably no photographer in Australia has “taken” more celebrities than did Mr. Gray for his patrons included Governors, politicians, and almost every notable to visit Sydney for a number of years past. He also held the exclusive right to J.C. Williamson, and was as well-known and respected in theatrical as he was in commercial circles.
It is interesting that Barrie is not mentioned. Nevertheless, after Gray’s death, the Talma Sydney studio closed its doors.
By 1914 Talma had established branches in other Australian capitals, opening in Brisbane in 1909 (Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley), Perth in 1912 (113 Barrack Street), and Adelaide in 1914 (31 King William Street).
Flashlight photograph of the audience at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, 2 June 1900, taken by Talma to commemorate the opening of the theatre under the management of J.C. Williamson Ltd.
State Library Victoria, H34846, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/77551
By 1896, photographs by Talma taken with the aid of a ‘flashlight’ started to appear in the pages of the illustrated newspapers. One of the earliest experiments in flashlight photography in Australia took place in 1890 when a gathering of the Lynn Camera Club in Adelaide was photographed by flashlight, the negative developed and the image then projected via lantern slide for the audience to see an hour later.
With the availability of magnesium flash powders in the late 1880s it became possible to take photographs indoors and at night-time. Highly volatile magnesium powder, when ignited by an electric spark, creates a brilliant and instantaneous flash. During the 1890s, this same technique was used to produce lightning effects on the stage. The Talma studio was not unique in the use of this new process, but was certainly one of the most prolific. With advancements in photo-lithographic printing, illustrated newspapers and journals were beginning to flourish and newspapers, such as The Australasian and Leader featured full and half-page photographic spreads, depicting everything from animals and architecture to sporting heroes and royalty.
When Talma’s ‘flashlight’ photograph of the Princess Theatre auditorium was published in The Australasian on 19 September 1896, it created a stir. Taken during a performance of A Trip to Chinatown, the photograph was said to be ‘the first time that any such view has been obtained in Australia’. It was called a ‘triumph of the photographer’s art’ and ‘one of the most remarkable of recent developments’. People were amazed at the clarity of the image, with the faces of people ‘readily recognisable as to be really portraits’.
This same picture was prominently displayed in the Talma studio showcase window in Swanston Street, with copies available at a guinea each.
A similar photograph of the Melbourne Opera House followed on the 17 October 1896. These types of photographs were a huge success, especially among audience members keen to obtain a souvenir of themselves in the crowd. When, in January 1897, it was proposed to take a photograph of the auditorium of the Bijou Theatre during a matinee performance of The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown, an advertisement appeared in the press announcing:
Public admitted at the usual tariff.
UNIQUE SOUVENIR of the OCCASION.
Messrs TALMA and Co. will take a flashlight photograph of the distinguished audience assembled in the auditorium of the Bijou Theatre on the occasion of the interesting event.
On 2 June 1900, to commemorate the opening of Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne (the former Alexandra Theatre) under the management of J.C. Williamson and the opening of the Nance O’Neil season, a commemorative flashlight photograph of the auditorium was taken by Talma. The photograph, together with a ‘statement of receipts’ for opening night and bound booklet of photographs of Nance O’Neil in private life and in costume, was available for purchase from the theatre.
One of the earliest stage photographs taken by Talma was of the A Gaiety Girl company on 14 October 1895 on the stage of the Princess Theatre in Melbourne with the aid of electric light.
National Library of Australia, PIC P1878 LOC Q15, http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-136392095/view
A scene from The Sign of the Cross featuring Julius Knight and Ada Ferrar. This image is taken from an 1898 souvenir booklet to commemorate the 250th performance of the play in Australia.
Elisabeth Kumm Collection.
Around the same time that Barrie was taking photographs of theatre auditoria, he also turned his camera to the stage. With flashlight photography, and the introduction of electricity into theatres, the camera had become more versatile and stage scenes could now be photographed in loco, rather than recreated in the studio. The publication of stage scenes in newspapers soon became widespread—and by the 1900s magazines, such as The Theatre (published by W.J. Moulton, Sydney), focussing solely on the theatre began to appear.
British-born New York based photographer, Joseph Byron (1846-1926), of the Byron Company heralded in a new era in theatrical photography when in 1890 he took his camera onto the stage of Broadway’s Fifth Avenue Theatre and photographed a scene from the melodrama Blue Jeans, with the aid of a magnesium flash. Theatre managers and producers soon appreciated the full potential of stage photography as a marketing tool, and between 1895 and 1942, the Byron Company took thousands of stage photographs.
One of Talma’s first stage shots was taken on 14 October 1895. Though not a production scene, it featured all the members of the A Gaiety Girl company assembled on the stage of Princess Theatre in Melbourne. ‘Photographed on the stage by electric light’, the picture formed the basis of a commemorative souvenir given to every lady who attended a special matinee performance on Wednesday, 16 October 1895.
In February 1897, The Australasian published one of Talma’s first flashlight play scenes—the Coronation scene from The Prisoner of Zenda, taken on the stage of the Princess Theatre. The photograph depicts Julius Knight, Ada Ferrar and company, resplendent against George and John Gordon’s magnificent set. This was followed in May 1897 by scenes from the biblical epic The Sign of the Cross: ‘The “Sign of the Cross” was produced at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Sydney, last week and made so profound an impression that the proprietors of “The Australasian” commissioned Talma (Mr. A. Barrie) to take views of the principal scenes. This he did by flashlight after the performance between midnight and 1 a.m.’ Many of these images later appeared in a 20-page souvenir, published by McKinley & Co., Melbourne, to commemorate the 250th performance of the play in Australia, which took place at the Princess Theatre on 9 August 1898.
The popularity of Talma’s stage scenes continued unabated. On 21 August 1897, The Australasian reproduced scenes from The Gay Parisienne; on 21 October 1897, Melbourne Punch featured two of the tableau scenes from A Royal Divorce: ‘Waterloo! Napoleon’s Final Effort’, and the ‘Retreat from Moscow’. A dramatic image of HMS Britannic, the battleship in Harbour Lights, published in the Leader on 20 August 1898, was described as a ‘a triumph of ingenuity and effective display’.
Subsequent productions in Melbourne and Sydney captured in Talma’s flashlight included The King’s Musketeers (1899), The Christian (1899), The Absent-Minded Beggar (1900), The Rose of Persia (1900), Cinderella (1901), Florodora (1901), Puss in Boots (1901), Aida (1901), The Casino Girl (1901), and The Christian King (1901).
The Retreat from Moscow—one of the tableaux scenes from A Royal Divorce, c.1897, with Julius Knight (centre) as Napoleon.
From A Royal Divorce: souvenir of play, playwright and players, Melbourne, c.1897. State Library of New South Wales, Q923.1/N.
Studies by Talma & Co., Melbourne and Sydney, published by Atlas Press, Melbourne, 1900. The inset photo is of Maud Jeffries in The Claudian.
Elisabeth Kumm Collection.
Talma contributed photographs to all manner of theatrical souvenirs and programmes, notably the productions of J.C. Williamson Ltd.
In March 1900, Talma published a small booklet entitled Studies by Talma & Co., which included portraits of leading actresses of the day, including Maud Jeffries, Mrs Brown Potter, Dorothy Vane, Hilda Spong, Maxine Elliott and others. As a ‘collection of the choicest specimens of the photographic art gleaned from the thousands of celebrities photographed by this noted firm,’ wrote the columnist in The Referee, ‘The souvenir is indeed worthy of the reputation of a firm famous for the excellence and thoroughness of its work.’
One of the Talma photographs that featured on JCW’s set of The Messenger Boy postcards, 1903.
State Library Victoria, H81.251/14, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/298769
Postcard of Maud Jeffries as Lady Mary Carlyle in Monsieur Beaucaire, c.1904. This same image also appeared as a cabinet card. See example in Gallery at the end of this article.
State Library Victoria, H2014.1013/26, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/336293
Novelty postcard of Carrie Moore, c.1906. Photograph by Talma.
State Library Victoria, H33707/30, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/297792
Postcard of Nellie Stewart in Sweet Nell of Old Drury, c.1912. Example of a ‘real’ photographic postcard, published by C.B. & Co., Sydney. Photograph by Talma & Co.
State Library Victoria, H84.64/3, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/298771
Just as the cabinet photograph displaced the carte-de-visite in the 1880s, the 5.5" x 3.5" (140 mm x 89 mm) postcard had virtually replaced the cabinet card by the early 1910s.
Unlike its predecessors, the postcard seamlessly combined the pictorial image and the postcard backing. In Britain, offset printing techniques were employed prior to 1903, but after this date the introduction of rotary presses enabled the mass production of ‘real’ photographs, the most famous exponent being London’s Rotary Photographic Co. Ltd. In the early days before the perfection of colour printing, black and white images were often hand coloured to enhance their appeal—and the use of other novelty elements such as glitter and embossing was also common.
Talma was one of the first photographic businesses in Australia to embrace the pictorial postcard. In 1894 the British postal service gave permission for privately printed postcards to be sent through the post using an adhesive stamp, with postal services in Australia following suit the next year. However, it wasn’t until the nationalisation of the postal system in Australia after 1901 and the introduction of two deliveries a day, that the craze for postcards really took off, replacing envelopes and notepaper as the preferred means of correspondence. Postcard sending and collecting became a popular hobby. Many people kept standing orders with photographers and bookstores, filling scrapbooks and albums with new cards as they were issued.
In July 1903, J.C. Williamson Ltd issued a set of postcards featuring scenes from The Messenger Boy, photographed by Talma, ostensibly as a means of advertising their new show playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. With the success of The Messenger Boy series, postcards for A Country Girl (1904), the Julius Knight and Maud Jeffries season (1904), the Gaiety Company season (1904) and The Cingalee (1905) followed.
Andrew Barrie saw the postcard as a simple and inexpensive means of distributing his growing number of theatrical portraits, creating a revenue stream for himself as well as and promoting the sitters and shows at the same time. As Melbourne Punch noted:
Amongst the best specimens of photographic post-cards are those issued by Talma of Melbourne and Sydney. The series illustrated the beauties of the stage, and includes Miss Nellie Stewart, Mrs Maesmore Morris, Miss Lillah McCarthy, Miss Maud Hobson and Miss May Beatty. All the pictures are photographic studies in lighting and posing, and are characterised by that technical excellence which has rendered Talma the premier stage photographer.
His regular printers were Syd. Day in Melbourne and C.B. & Co. (Collins Brothers & Co.) in Sydney.
Photograph of the former Whitney’s Building at 79 Swanston Street, c.1956-65. In February 1924, this became the new home of Talma. The sloping glass roof of the studio can clearly been seen atop the corner building.
City of Melbourne Arts and Heritage Collection, reg. no. 1751413, http://citycollection.melbourne.vic.gov.au/unmarked-book-negative-a19-intersection-of-swanston-and-collins-street/
Alan Wilkie, c.1926. Silver gelatin photograph by Talma Studios.
State Library Victoria, H92.253/10, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/299190
With Henry Weedon’s death in 1912, Barrie lost both a friend and a business partner. But at age fifty-eight, Barrie was still at the height of his powers and photography was a driving passion. Like many people working in the creative industries, retirement was not an option. Outside of the studio, he entered competitions, judged amateur photographic competitions and even gave lectures. He was a long-time member of the Photographic Society of Victoria (serving both as Vice President and President for a time), an active member of the Photographic Employers’ Association of Victoria (serving as President in 1913) and of the Professional Photographers’ Association of Victoria (for which he was President 1924/1925).
In February 1924, after thirty-two years at 119 Swanston Street, Talma relocated to new premises. Whitney Chambers at 79 Swanston Street was a two-story building on the south-west corner of Swanston and Collins streets. Sharing the first-floor with Table Talk magazine and Coghill and Haughton, auctioneers and estate agents, Talma’s new home was ‘specially designed as a photographic studio … with every modern and most approved device of lighting and convenience’. Barrie was one of the speakers at the opening and at sixty-seven years of age was described as ‘the oldest tenant of the premises’.
Little is known about the business and how many people it employed, but it seems they still had a number of theatrical clientele. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Barrie may have experienced financial loss as a result of the 1929 depression. By the mid-1930s, following the sudden death of his wife, and in poor health, he sold his business to Mendelssohn’s, a family-run photographic business located at 90 Swanston Street. By 1938 the business was trading as The New Talma.
Andrew Barrie, c.1894. Photograph by Talma & Co.
This portrait appeared in The Photographic Review of Review (Australian edition), no. 12, December 1894, p. 10.
Portrait of Andrew Barrie’s second wife, Mary Wyndham.
Courtesy of Andrew Barrie.
On 23 February 1886, Barrie had married Mary Elizabeth Brown, the third daughter of the late William Brown of Ballarat. The wedding ceremony was conducted by Rev. Lockhart Morton at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church in Ballarat. On 11 December 1886, Barrie’s first child Beryl Ellerslie was born; followed by Reginald William in 1888; Stanley Arthur in 1891; Mary Johnstone in 1892; Alice Graham in 1895; and Violet Johnston in 1900. In 1886, Barrie and his wife were living in Victoria Street, East St Kilda. At the time their third child was born, they resided at ‘Talma’, 68 Milton Street, St Kilda. On 25 January 1912, Barrie’s wife died, aged only 48. By this time, Andrew Barrie was living at ‘Rosedale’ on the corner of Foster and Smith streets in St Kilda. On 26 April 1920, at the age of 60, Barrie re-married. His second wife, Mary Wyndham (born Lucy Amelia Mary Wyndham) was thirty-two years his junior. She was the daughter of the late Heathcote George Wyndham of Great Salterns, Hampshire, England. The Wyndham’s family tree was quite an illustrious one. It boasted numerous dignitaries, including several British Prime Ministers, and could be traced back to Anne Boleyn. The marriage took place at the Presbyterian Church, Alma Road, St Kilda. Barrie and his wife had two children, Colin (born 1921) and Beris (born 1925). Mary Barrie died suddenly on 2 February 1934, aged only 42, of a brain aneurism. Following his wife’s death, Barrie’s health started to decline and his children went to live with a close friend of the family. In late 1936 Barrie had a stroke resulting in hemiplegia. He suffered a second stroke in March the following a year—and died on 5 April 1937, aged 77. At the time he was resident in the Alma Rest Home in East St Kilda. He was buried in Brighton Cemetery.
Curiously, no family notices were placed in the newspapers and no obituaries were published to mark his passing—something especially strange considering that Talma was once a household name in Melbourne and Sydney. Unfortunately history is full of similar stories.
Andrew Barrie was a man of considerable energy and invention, and his whole life was dedicated to the advancement of his craft and its artistic possibilities. He opened his Talma studio at a very challenging time, when the Melbourne bank collapse was at its height. He was one of the first commercial photographers in Australia to use electric light and he experimented with new techniques and cameras in his pursuit of photographic perfection. Between the 1890s and the 1930s, thousands of people sat before his camera. His services were in demand by fashionable society and celebrities, and his photographs of leading actors and actresses were greatly admired and highly sought after. Prior to 1910 he didn’t place advertisements in newspapers, the demand for his pictures by publishers was all he needed to spread his name and with the development of the postcard his images were soon being delivered to all corners of globe through the post.
Considering the number of photographs he and his studios took during their peak, surprisingly few are to be found in public collections. The State Library Victoria and the State Library of New South Wales have approximately five hundred between them; a modest number considering the many hundreds of thousands that must have been produced and sold. Of those that appeared in the illustrated newspapers and souvenirs, notably the stage scenes, their high-quality photographic equivalents are nowhere to be found. When the old Talma Building at 119 Swanston Street was being cleared by the City of Melbourne in the mid-1990s, hundreds of badly weathered photographs were discovered in the roof space, photographs by Talma, but also by Grouzelle & Co., who preceded Talma as tenants of the building. The majority of the photographs are of ‘ordinary’ people, and only a handful are recognisable as being from the acting profession. The photographs are now preserved in the City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection.
 In 2000-2001, the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra held a major touring exhibition on the work of H. Walter Barnett, Legends: the art of Walter Barnett, and an accompanying catalogue was published with the support of Saatchi & Saatchi Australia. Barnett’s London work also figured prominently in an exhibition held at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 1998 and in the accompanying book High Society Photographs 1897-1914 by Terence Pepper. In addition, Roger Neill, the curator of the Legends exhibition, wrote the entry for Barnett in the Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography, pp. 116-117.
 The Magic Box (UK, 1951), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGNOJJ_cppc
 Cato, p. 94: Cato incorrectly records Barrie’s birth year as 1860; Scottish Birth Certificate; VIC Birth and Death Certificates. Another older son, also called Andrew, had died from scarlet fever in 1858. The family left Scotland to escape the scarlet fever epidemic that was sweeping through Scotland. Ironically, two sons, both christened David, born in Ballarat in 1863 and 1868, died from heat stroke, the first in 1867 and second in 1869.
 PROV Unassisted Passenger Lists; Cato, p. 94: Cato says, Barrie ‘came out to the Victorian goldfields when he was seven years old’, which is not correct.
 VIC Birth and Death Certificates; Sands & McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory, various issues
 The Ballarat Star (Vic.), 18 May 1878, p. 1; The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 8 March 1879, p. 7; Leader (Melbourne, Vic.), 31 May 1879, p. 21; p. 7; The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 5 March 1880, p. 9; The Photographic Review of Reviews (Australasian Edition), 1 December 1894, p. 10, http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-410408700/view; Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 15 February 1912, p. 29.
 Davies & Stanbury, p. 235; Sandy Barrie, p. 164; Cato, pp. 88–89: Cato incorrectly states that Stewart was a Scot and that his first name was Richard; ‘Death of Mr Robert Stewart’, Supplement to the Australasian Photo-Review, 22 August 1912, p. 469, https://trove.nla.gov.au/version/257902130
 Davies & Stanbury, pp. 102 & 160; Sandy Barrie, pp. 11 & 58–59; Paul De Serville, ‘Henry Walter Barnett (1862-1934)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/barnett-henry-walter-5139. Though sources do not agree on the opening date of the Falk Studio in Sydney, some say 1885 and others 1887, directories and newspaper reports suggest he was definitely established by 1888, taking over the premises of Emil Riisfeldt in the Royal Arcade.
 Gael Newton, ‘A photo-literate generation’, essay for the catalogue Tom Roberts, NGA exhibition 4 December 2015–28 March 2016, https://www.photo-web.com.au/gael/docs/roberts.htm; Helen Topliss, ‘Thomas William (Tom) Roberts (1856-1931)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/roberts-thomas-william-tom-8229
 Quoted in Gael Newton, ‘A Photo-literate Generation’, https://www.photo-web.com.au/gael/docs/roberts.htm
 The Photographic Review of Reviews (Australasian Edition), 1 December 1894, p. 10. According to Sandy Barrie’s listing of Australian Photographers, p. 164, Andrew Barrie was proprietor of the business from 1881–1891, with Elizabeth Brown (his wife) as Operator, 1881–1889; and that Barrie continued to have an interest in the company until 1915. He also seems to have maintained an interest in Barroni & Co., a photographic studio run by William Dunning that specialised in portraits of cycling and sports people.
 David Dunstan, ‘Sir Henry Weedon (1859-1921)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/weedon-sir-henry-9034
 Davies & Stanbury, p. 235; Sandy Barrie, p. 164.
 Davies & Stanbury, pp. 171 & 238; Sands & McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory, various issues.
 The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 28 May 1892, p. 7.
 The Australasian Sketcher (Melbourne, Vic.), 21 October 1885, p. 163.
 Charles Conder, The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition, opened August 17, 1889, at Buxton's Rooms, http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-52814188/view?searchTerm=buxton%27s+gallery&partId=nla.obj-285233791
 The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 31 October 1892, p. 4; The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 1 November 1892, p. 5; Leader (Melbourne, Vic.), 5 November 1892, p. 18.
 The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 11 February 1893, p. 14. Baker was one of Australia’s first successful manufacturers of dry plates for photography. In 1894 he teamed with J.J. Rouse, a dealer in photographic material, to form Baker & Rouse. Paul De Serville, ‘Thomas Baker (1854-1928)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/baker-thomas-5110
 Sands & McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory, various issues.
 Refer various entries in Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography.
 Advertising card, City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection.
 Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 14 May 1896, p. 7. It is interesting that only a few scant announcements appeared in the press and little was made of the camera and its capabilities. It may be speculated that the ‘leading New York photographer’ was Joseph Byron.
 The Photographic Review of Reviews (Australasian Edition), 1 December 1894, p. 10.
 Cato, p. 94; Falk opened a studio in Melbourne in March 1895, located on the ‘Block’ at 92–94 Elizabeth Street.
 The Prahran and St Kilda Chronicle (Vic.), 8 October 1892, p. 8.
 The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 1 November 1892, p. 5.
 Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 31 March 1898, p. 14.
 Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), 18 March 1899, p. 42.
 The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 14 March 1899, p. 6.
 The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW), 6 June 1911, p. 7.
 Following Gray’s death, Dun’s Gazette, 18 September 1911, p. 236, records under ‘Registered Firms’, Wm. Keith Mowbray Pascoe and Rd. Alex. Dunn as the new partners of Talma & Co., 374 George Street. Newspaper reports however suggest that Pascoe was a bankrupt and it seems the business was inactive until September 1923, when Hilda Monro become the proprietor and re-opened the business as the New Talma, as recorded by Dun’s Gazette, 15 October 1923, p. 257.
 Evening Journal (NSW), 21 March 1890, p. 4.
 The Bendigo Independent (Vic.), 19 September 1896, p. 6. In fact two photographs were taken in case of accident, but only one used.
 The Bendigo Advertiser (Vic.), 19 September 1896, p. 6.
 The Bendigo Independent (Vic.), 21 September 1896, p. 3.
 The Herald (Melbourne, Vic.), 25 January 1897, p. 2.
 Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 29 June 1900, p. 7.
 Similar magazines were published in Britain, America and Europe after 1900, notably Play Pictorial (London), The Theatre (New York) and Le Théâtre (Paris).
 Felix Frederick, ‘Photography of the Stage,’ The American Annual of Photography 1923, vol. XXXVII, pp. 178-183. Frederick states Bryon’s first stage photograph was taken ‘around 1889’. This date was more likely ‘around 1890’ as Blue Jeans had its first performance in October 1890.
 Byron Company photo archive comprising more than 24,000 images is held by The Museum of the City of New York. This archive, which also includes New York street scenes and ships, has been digitised and can be viewed on the MOCNY website, https://collections.mcny.org/Explore/Highlights/Byron%20Company/
 The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 27 February 1897, p. 418, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/11449255
 The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 22 May 1897, p. 1026, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/11449867
 The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic.), 21 August 1897, p. 398, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/11311722
 Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 21 October 1897, p. 331, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/20431804
 Leader (Melbourne, Vic.), 27 August 1898, p. 22, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/21476673
 Referee (Sydney, NSW), 28 March 1900, p. 9.
 Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 13 October 1904, p. 22.
 Punch (Melbourne, Vic.), 15 February 1912, p. 29.
 Information about his roles on the various photographic societies has been gleaned from The Photographic Review of Reviews (Australasian Edition), 1 December 1894, p. 10, Australasian Photo-Review, 22 September 1913, p. 499 and The Age (Melbourne, Vic.), 5 July 1924, p. 30. More research is needed to determine the exact dates of his various presidencies.
 Sands & McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory, various issues; Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.), 7 February 1924, p. 29.
 Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.), 7 February 1924, p. 29.
 Information from Andrew Barrie’s grandson Andrew Barrie, 2019.
 ‘Mendelssohn’s Photographic Studios’, Australian Variety Theatre Archive, 26 October 2012 (updated 16 January 2015), https://ozvta.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/mendelssohns-studios-1612015.pdf
 VIC Marriage Certificate, 1038/1886.
 VIC Marriage Certificate, 5958/1920; The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic), 5 June 1920, p. 61.
 VIC Death Certificate, 1000/1934; The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), 3 February 1934, p. 7.
 VIC Death Certificate, 2543/1937. Barrie’s death certificate says that he was buried at Brighton Cemetery on 6 April 1937 and that the funeral director was Joseph Allison.
Andrew Barrie (grandson of Andrew Barrie), Mimi Colligan, Michael Galimany, Cressida Goddard (Art and Heritage Collection Administrator, City of Melbourne), Allister Hardiman, Peter Johnson & Judy Leech.
Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au
Geoff Barker, ‘Australian pictorial postcards’, 29 February 2012, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, https://maas.museum/inside-the-collection/2012/02/29/australian-pictorial-postcards
Sandy Barrie, Australians Behind the Camera: directory of early Australian photographers, 1841–1945, S. Barrie, South Sydney, 2002
Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria, https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/research-and-family-history/search-your-family-history
Jack Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia, Georgian House, Melbourne, 1955 (reprinted by the Institute of Australian Photography, 1977)
Charles Conder, The 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition, opened August 17, 1889, at Buxton's Rooms, http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-52814188/view?searchTerm=buxton%27s+gallery&partId=nla.obj-285233791
Alan Davies & Peter Stanbury, The Mechanical Eye in Australia: photography 1841–1900, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1985
John Hannavy (editor), Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Routledge, New York & London, 2008
Gael Newton, ‘A photo-literate generation’, essay for the catalogue Tom Roberts, NGA exhibition 4 December 2015–28 March 2016, https://www.photo-web.com.au/gael/docs/roberts.htm
Public Record Office Victoria (PROV), Unassisted Passenger Lists, https://prov.vic.gov.au/explore-collection/explore-topic/passenger-records-and-immigration/unassisted-passenger-lists
Sands & McDougall’s Melbourne and Suburban Directory, http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/98888
Con Tanre, The Mechanical Eye: a historical guide to Australian photography and photographers, The Macleay Museum, The University of Sydney, NSW, 1977
SIGN UP for our newsletter and get more great content like this delivered to your inbox. It's FREE!