Capturing Change: 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 urbanising, embracing modern buildings, improvements to sanitation and new infrastructure. Old buildings were being demolished with rapid pace, leading to a sense among some that the city’s history was being lost. Council began the practice of hiring professional photographers to document this profound transformation. The resultant ‘Demolition Books’ is now a key photographic collection held in the City 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 illustrated talk, Laila will discuss images from the ‘Demolition Books’ series and compare them with other contemporaneous photographs that show Sydney’s transition to a modern city.

You can also view the exhibition Developing Sydney: Capturing change 1900-1920 before the talk.

Event date

Event Details

31 Alfred Street, Sydney, New South Wales

Barnet Long Room, level 1 Customs House Library.


2pm - 3pm

Entry fees:
Prebooking required
Attendance limit:
100 - 150
Onsite facilities:
Other things
you need to know:
This event will be Auslan interpreted. Attendance option: in-person or online (separate tickets).