Long before smartphones and selfies, people visited a studio portrait photographer to capture an image of themselves they wanted to share with the world. Museum of Brisbane’s new exhibition Sit. Pose. Snap. Brisbane Portrait Photography 1850 – 1950 explores the first one hundred years of portrait photography in Brisbane from 1850 to 1950.

The exhibition from Friday 24 March to Sunday 30 July, reflects how photography was, and still is used to present an image of ourselves which portrays who we are and how we want to be perceived, and ultimately to share this with others.

In an exploration of identity and a medium which has stood the test of time, Sit. Pose. Snap. draws on one of Australia’s most extensive collections of portrait photography, amassed and researched by Brisbane General Practitioner, Marcel Safier. From special occasions and recording occupations to family portraits and more, the photographs hint at the personality and stories of the subjects, even though the identity of many of the sitters is unknown.

There is much more to an image than meets the eye, and woven into the exhibition is an examination of photographic techniques and technologies; the popularisation of photography; and the ever-increasing control that subjects have over their portrayal.

Significant Brisbane photographic houses of the period and their legacies are also featured. Visitors will have the chance to experience what it felt like to visit Mathewson & Co., one of the leading studios of the time, through an immersive Victorian backdrop and a journalist’s account from 1889. They will also have a chance to take a selfie in this recreated 19th century studio space.

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