Invaluable black-and-white photographs capturing Sydney’s interwar years – stored under a house for almost 60 years – will be shown to the public for the first time to mark History Week in September.
Boxes of photographs, slides, films and glass plate negatives taken by Adam Forrest Grant from the 1920s to the 1940s, were recently brought to light, with around 180 images donated to the City of Sydney Archives.
Mr Grant, an electrical engineer with the City of Sydney from 1908 until his death in 1949, was a member of the Photographic Society of NSW and great friends with pioneering Australian photographer Harold Cazneaux. He also served in the Australian Army for three years fighting for his country in France during World War I.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore said History Week was a chance to recognise the important work of people like Adam Grant, who captured invaluable images of Sydney through the years.
“Thanks to Adam’s passion for photography and dedication to his craft, we can learn a lot more about what Sydney looked like in the early 20th century,” the Lord Mayor said.
“These wonderful images capture a moment in time for our city that may otherwise have been lost forever. They are a real gift to the people of Sydney and will provide a rich resource for historians and researchers for years to come.”
Mr Grant’s daughter, Jenny Grant, said her father’s photographs featured views of the old city skyline from atop the Queen Victoria Building where he worked, as well as industrial and architectural scenes from suburbs such as Darlinghurst, Pyrmont and Millers Point.
“They were all stored under my brother David’s house and when he died two years ago, his daughter Helen found them all indexed and mainly in good condition. I believe the City’s archives people fell about with excitement because there were pictures of old Sydney between the wars, and some buildings that no longer exist,” Ms Grant said.
“The archives people have done a fantastic restoration job and I am so grateful to them. I know Dad would be very pleased and proud. Dad’s pictures are very atmospheric, very calm, and show his interest in light and shade. But Dad was also a very modest man and I think that stillness comes out in his pictures.
“The photograph I love the most is one of Macquarie Place. I worked for a shipping company called Swire & Yuill and I used to trudge past there to get the bus home and I always thought how charming it was. Now this photograph has turned up and I think it’s one of his nicest, so I feel he must have liked it, too.”
Ms Grant said her father spent much of his time in his, “little fibro cubbyhole” darkroom at their home in Bellevue Hill, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where he printed films taken on his plate, Vogtlander twin-lens reflex and concertina folding cameras.
“I was only 12 when he died and I was just getting to the stage where I was thinking that photography was rather interesting,” Ms Grant said.
“We had a wonderful session where he showed me how to develop and print, which was great fun.
“You also have to remember that when you’re dealing with a plate camera, you don’t muck about, because if you haven’t got an awful lot of money, you don’t waste plates. It’s not like a digital camera – you can’t fire it off in all directions and pick the best one. You have to be very careful what you do and be sure what you’re photographing is exactly what you want.”
Adam Forrest Grant – a life in photography
Historian Laila Ellmoos from the City’s History Unit looks at the life and work of photographer and engineer Adam Forrest Grant (1885-1949).
Wednesday 11 September, midday – 1pm
Customs House Library, 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay
Free, bookings essential on 02 9242 8555 or coslibrary.eventbrite.com.au
A display of photographs by Adam Forrest Grant will be on exhibition at Customs House throughout September.
To see the Adam Forrest Grant collection, visit ArchivePix the City of Sydney’s online archives photo collection at photosau.com.au/Cos/scripts and search for his name.
For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Jodie Minus, phone 0467 803 815 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For interviews with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Jonathon Larkin on 0477 310 149 or email email@example.com