Biggingee Sorabjee Pochee / Australia active c.1863–1882 / Maud Hay, Gayndah c.1879–80 / Albumen photograph mounted on card / 10.5 x 6.4cm / Gift of Ross Searle through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2017 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Biggingee Sorabjee Pochee
Maud Hay, Gayndah c.1879–1880

Not Currently on Display

It was not until the 1850s, with the invention of the albumen print, that photographers were first able to create high-quality images that could be easily reproduced in large quantities at affordable prices. The wealthy and famous, along with the middle class, were now able to have their studio portrait taken by a professional photographer. These small portraits, known as cartes de visite, usually consisted of an albumen print on thin photographic paper, which was mounted on thicker card. They were designed to be held in the hand or housed in custom-made albums. Although small, humble objects, cartes de visite became enormously popular and were often traded among friends and visitors. The back of the carte de visite usually carried an advertisement for the photographer, giving his address to encourage further business.

While many photographers gravitated to the major cities, some were lured to regional towns to ply their trade, the locals eager to take advantage of their services. The portraits in this collection of cartes de visite are all from Brisbane or regional Queensland. They trace family relationships and social networks, and commemorate families and events. In a contemporary context, they can reveal unique information about early photographic, cultural, social and personal histories.

Biggingee Sorabjee Poochee was born in Bombay, India, making his way to Australia in the early 1860’s to take advantage of the gold strikes.

Poochee established his photography business in Ipswich in 1863, soon followed by another studio in Brisbane. In these studios, Poochee introduced a number of new and improved portrait photography processes which became popular with residents. As well as the cartes de visite process, he also used a sennotype process, which involved sandwiching two identical albumen photographs behind glass giving the print a 3D quality.

From 1877 to 1882, Poochee travelled through regional Queensland, setting up new studios in Dalby, Maryborough, Gayndah, and Townsville. He also ventured to more remote towns where he set up a studio in a small tent to capture portraits of local residents.