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Freeman Brothers

Australian, founded 1855

Institution: Freeman Brothers
William Freeman arrived from London in 1853 and worked at John Wheeler’s Sydney Photographic Rooms in Bridge Street. His brother James joined them in 1854 and the studio, which moved to George Street, advertised as Freeman Brothers and Wheeler.

By early 1855, the company was simply Freeman Brothers and wealthy citizens visited Freeman’s Sydney Gallery of Photographic Art to have their daguerreotype portraits made. By 1856, the ambrotype, a new process on glass, which James Freeman had brought to the colony, became fashionable and Freeman was able exploit the faster medium.

The 1860s saw a revolution in photography with the introduction of the mass produced carte-de-visite, a small paper photograph the size of a visiting card. For the first time, it was possible for the working class to be photographed.

Freeman produced over 30,000 carte-de-visite negatives by 1870, but these early negatives were destroyed: the Library has no carte-de-visite negatives prior to 1875, although 18,000 exist after that date.

Partnership with the noted English photographer Victor Prout in 1866 gave them additional status, and Freeman & Prout began to advertise as ‘photographers to their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales and His Excellency the Governor.’

William and James Freeman returned to England in 1868, leaving the business in the hands of their staff. William came back to Sydney after the death of James in 1870 and continued to produce carte-de-visite and larger portraits from several premises along George Street.

The studio passed into the hands of long time employee William Rufus George, soon after William Freeman retired around 1890.