Street Photography

SLM Unidentified family, 1950 (detail)Street Photography – a new exhibition opening at the Museum of Sydney on Saturday 8 December, explores the heyday of this once popular but now forgotten genre.

Following a hugely successful public call-out by Sydney Living Museums, over 1500 personal images contributed by people far and wide have come to light giving a glimpse into the everyday life of Sydney and its people during the Depression, WWII and postwar years. 250 of these images, digitised and enlarged, form the basis of the exhibition.

Presented alongside this extraordinary and largely unseen pictorial record of Sydney is a series of works by the nationally acclaimed, photomedia artist Anne Zahalka, who has restaged nine of the original images, with descendants and those still living in similar locations where their parents, grandparents or they once stood. The exhibition also includes new images taken at live photographic locations in key places around the city similar to the street photography of the past.

Street Photography provides a unique opportunity for the public to actively contribute to this exhibition from beginning to end,” said Mark Goggin, Executive Director, Sydney Living Museums. “The overwhelming response to our call-out for photos shows that few people would have escaped being ‘snapped’ by a street photographer. Many visitors to this exhibition will most likely recognise friends or family members.”

Before the days of Instagram, personal cameras, copyright and privacy laws, street photographers were a familiar part of central Sydney during the 1930’s to the late 1950’s, inadvertently creating a vast archive of black-and-white, postcard-sized candid images of our city and its people. At the height of its popularity in the mid 1930’s, over 10,000 people in NSW were buying photos from street photography companies every week.

“Armed with small portable cameras and positioned in key places around the city, the photographers caught pedestrians unaware – mid-stride, talking or deep in thought as they went about their day, and the public loved it,” said Anna Cossu, Curator, City Museums Portfolio, Sydney Living Museums.

As street photography companies went out of fashion, very few negatives lasted except for a rare collection which came to light through the public call-out and have now been acquired by Sydney Living Museums, preserved for the future. “Each image is a fleeting momento of a day spent in the city and reveals who we were, the changing fashions and social mores,” added Anna Cossu.

Street Photography
Museum of Sydney, Corner Phillip and Bridge Streets, Sydney
Exhibition: 8 December 2018 – 21 July 2019
Free admission after museum entry

For more information, visit: for details

Image: Unidentified family, 1950, Martin Place, Sydney, Ikon Studio. Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums