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City of Sydney

Capturing Change: photography and the modern city


Saturday 21 May from 2pm to 3pm

Join historian Laila Ellmoos and investigate how photography was used to document changes to Sydney in the first decades of the 20th century. 

Sydney was on the verge of great change in 1900. The city’s built landscape was rapidly being urbanised with, modern buildings improvements to sanitation and new infrastructure. Old buildings were being demolished with rapid pace, leading to a sense among some that the city’s history was being lost. The council began hiring professional photographers to document this profound transformation. 'Demolition Books’ is now a key photographic collection held in the City of Sydney Archives, comprising almost 5,000 photographs and associated glass plate negatives.  

Like the council, many individuals and government authorities used the visual medium of photography to document urban change. In this talk, Laila will show and discuss images from the 'Demolition Books' series and compare them with other contemporaneous photographs that show Sydney’s transition to a modern city.

Developing Sydney exhibition

To explore the City of Sydney’s Archives and History resources, go to City of Sydney Archives.

Laila Ellmoos is a professional historian who is passionate about communicating history to a wide range of audiences through exhibitions, talks and the written word. She is a historian at the City of Sydney and a longstanding member of the Professional Historians Association of NSW & ACT.

Covid-safe information

Booking options and Covid-safe information

Attend the event at Customs House Library

The health and safety of everyone at City of Sydney venues is our top priority. If you plan to visit, you must be familiar with the procedures in place and follow Covid-safe rules during your visit. See our website for the most up-to-date entry requirements and what to expect when visiting

This event will be Auslan interpreted.

Attend the event online

To join the session live on Zoom, choose this option when you book. Please read your booking confirmation carefully to join the event on Zoom. You’ll need to install Zoom on your computer or device to participate.

This event will be Auslan interpreted. To access the Auslan interpreting, you will need to use Zoom on a computer.



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