Geelong and District

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Brookes' Photographic Union

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For some time I have been puzzled by the name "Brookes' Photographic Union".  It appears on the Geelong and District Photographers list and is associated with J Brookes.  Who was J Brookes?

Brookes' Photographic Union Exhibition

In 2010 the Geelong Gallery held an exhibition of the Brookes' Photographic Union collection - a beautiful display of photographs from the Western Districts including: Queenscliff, Clifton Springs, Lorne, Geelong and surrounds, Apollo Bay, Winchelsea, Colac, Portland, Warrnambool and Cape Otway.  Many of these were familiar - a copy of the Clifton Springs Spa House and Kiosk is in the collection at the Bellarine Historical Society.

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Connection to J Brookes?

The Western Districts collection was issued in 1891 "as a companion to an earlier volume Gippsland through the camera."  The reference to the Gippsland collection is possibly the reason why J Brookes was associated with Brookes' Photographic Union in Australians Behind the Camera: Directory of Early Australian Photographers, 1841 to 1945.  Wise's Victoria Post Office Directory 1888-1889 shows J Brookes, photographer, Sale - Sale is in Gippsland therefore J Brookes was in the right location for Gippsland through the camera therefore J Brookes was Brookes' Photographic Union.  Is that how the connection was made?

So who was J Brookes?  [In The Mechanical Eye in Australia he is shown as J Brokes, photographer, Sale, however I believe this is a typographical error.]  I haven't found the answer to that but I have an alternative theory on who was behind Brookes' Photographic Union that I believe has more solid references and connections than the mysterious J Brookes.

Alternative theory

Australians Behind the Camera also lists an F A Brookes at Ascot Vale in 1889-90.  Could F A Brookes have been connected with Brookes' Photographic Union?  Absolutely!

Frederick Augustus BROOKES was born in Nottinghamshire, England in 1851.  In 1865 he emigrated to New Zealand with his parents - joining older siblings who had made the journey in 1862 and 1863.  Frederick married in New Zealand in 1881 and had three children in 1883, 1885, 1886.  By 1889 he was in Victoria and gave his occupation as an artist and photographer.  A son was born in 1889, registered at Essendon, however the death of this child was registered at Sale in Victoria.

Albert Edward BROOKES, Frederick's brother, was born in 1847.  He married in 1874 in New Zealand, had six children there - the last in 1886 - and by 1888 his next child was born in Sale in Victoria.  Albert was also a photographer.  Late in 1889, Albert had a daughter in Geelong.

The name Brookes' Photographic Union infers more than one person - is there a better "fit" than brothers, both photographers, with primary evidence of at least one or both being located in Sale and Geelong during the relevant time period?  Surely these men could have been responsible for the Western Districts collection issued in 1891 and the Gippsland collection issued prior to that?

Interim biographical reports with references have been provided for Frederick Augustus BROOKES, Albert Edward BROOKES, and their parents Edwin Stanley BROOKES snr and Jemima HOVEY.

This is a "work in progress" - if you can add information to this theory or provide biographical details etc., please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Bibliography / Sources

  • Barrie, Sandy, Australians Behind the Camera: Directory of Early Australian Photographers, 1841 to 1945, published by author, Queensland, 2002.
  • Brownhill, Walter Randolph, The History of Geelong and Corio Bay, with postscript 1955-1900 (by Ian Wynd), Geelong Advertiser, Geelong, 1990.
  • Davies, Alan & Stanbury, Peter, The Mechanical Eye in Australia: Photography 1841-1900, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, reprinted 1986.
  • Directories : various commercial, trade & post office directories.
  • BDM Indexes : Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and New Zealand.
  • Various other genealogical sources

Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2010 04:02  

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