Exhibition: ‘Portraits of War: The Crown Studios Project’ at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 28th June – 21st September 2014


Crown Street Studios 'Reginald Gardiner' c. 1918


Crown Street Studios
Reginald Gardiner
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 20.9.1898
Date of Enlistment: 17.5.1918
Trade or Calling: Book keeper
Born in or near what Town: Orange


Reginald Gardiner was born on the 21st of September 1898, and was recognised as a trade book keeper. Besides that, not much is known about him.



They were so young

for Australians

to die

under the Rising Sun



Many thankx to the State Library of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Crown Street Studios. 'Eric Hughes' c. 1918


Crown Street Studios
Eric Hughes
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 4.5.1900
Date of Enlistment: 5.8.1918
Trade or Calling: Labourer
Born in or near what Town: Newtown


Crown Street Studios. 'Alfred Duroux' c. 1918


Crown Street Studios
Alfred Duroux
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 11.8.1892
Date of Enlistment: 12.6.1918
Born in or near what Town: Cangai via Copmanhurst


Crown Street Studios. 'Jack Hodgson' Nd


Crown Street Studios
Jack Hodgson


Jack Hodgson was left blind after he was wounded in Gallipoli around 1915. He served in the 4th Battalion and is pictured here showing his service medals to his son.


Crown Street Studios. 'William Joseph Langworthy' c. 1918


Crown Street Studios
William Joseph Langworthy
c. 1918
Date of Birth: unknown
Date of Enlistment: 19.2.1918
Trade or Calling: Driver
Born in or near what Town: Canley Vale
Address prior to Enlistment: Prospect Rd Canley Vale


William Joseph Langworthy from Canley Vale returned to Australia on July 7, 1919. He served as a private in the 34th Battalion after enlisting on February 19, 1918.



For the first time in nearly a century an extraordinary and haunting collection of over 230 photographic portraits of WWI soldiers from NSW will go on show in a free exhibition at the State Library of NSW, from 28 June 2014. Produced as part of the Library’s WWI centenary program, Portraits of War: The Crown Studios Project reveals the fascinating story behind the creation of the portraits and delivers a moving experience that bears witness to the individual faces of Aussie soldiers who served their country and faced a hostile and deadly conflict far from home.

The pocket-sized images on show are drawn from the Library’s collection of some 1,600 portraits taken in 1918 – prior to the soldiers heading overseas – by Sydney’s largest photographic studio at the time, the Crown Street Studios, as part of an ambitious WWI collecting project. According to NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive, Alex Byrne: “When the project began it encountered a storm of newspaper criticism and monopoly accusations by Sydney photographers however, thanks to the tenacity and support of the Principal Librarian at the time, William Ifould, the project continued and he secured the portraits for future generations.”

The project was initiated through a generous proposal made by Sydney’s Crown Studio’s proprietor Mark Blow in 1918. Blow’s idea was to compile a portrait collection of all WWI soldiers from NSW by photographing the men in his studio or by asking relatives of soldiers to forward existing images for copying. The entire collection would be donated ‘free of charge’ to the Mitchell Library [now part of the State Library]. Ifould addressed the monopoly concerns by inviting all photographers to supply photo-portraits as long as they met the required size and quality conditions. Unfortunately, the project was never completed.

A damaging fire at the Studio in December 1918 hindered the collection process and while copies of the portraits were protected in a fireproof safe, the Studio did not re-open again until 1 July 1919. Exhibition curator Louise Tegart says “the information on the back of each print is just as compelling as the portraits themselves with personal details handwritten, including whether soldiers made it home or not.”

“The exhibition features a portrait of Sgt Gates, a Sydney-based plumber before enlisting in 1917 and who was killed in action in 1918, aged 24. His only brother, Private Frank Gates, was killed in action just the day before,” says MsTegart. “The portraits capture the faces of men of all ages set against different backgrounds and sadly, it could be the only photograph families had of their sons, brothers or uncles.”

Press release from The State Library of New South Wales


“They’re very intimate photographs,” says the exhibition’s curator, Louise Tegart. “What really strikes me is the diversity of the soldiers… You get a wide variety of ages, backgrounds, and religions.” The photos were taken by Mark Blow at Sydney’s Crown Street Studios from June 1918, after he approached the NSW Premier wanting to document the soldiers from across the state that were going off to war. His only condition in doing this was that the photos were kept at the Mitchell Library (now the NSW State Library).

“Photography had been around for probably 70 or 80 years at that stage, but not a lot of people could afford their own cameras,’ says Louise. “Going in and having your photo taken in a studio context was still a very special and quite expensive experience. “Another part of the project was if people couldn’t come in to the studio to have their photo taken, or if they’d been part of the war prior to 1918, family members sent in their photographs and had them copied.”

In December 1918, a fire ravaged the studios, bringing an end to the project. “It’s really only a small sample of what could’ve been a much larger project.”

Robert Virtue. “Release of war hero’s portrait triggers hunt for information,” on the ABC Central West NSW website, 25th June 2014 [Online] Cited 16/06/2021


Crown Street Studios. 'Claude James Hunt' c. 1918


Crown Street Studios
Claude James Hunt
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 8.3.1899
Date of Enlistment: 3.7.1918
Trade or Calling: Grazier
Born in or near what Town: Inverell
Address prior to Enlistment: “Como” Frazer St West Narrabri


Crown Street Studios. 'Roy Henderson Robertson' c. 1914-15


Crown Street Studios
Roy Henderson Robertson
c. 1914-15
Date of Birth: c. Feb 1899 at Scarborough NSW
School: Clifton NSW
Other military training: Compulsory cadets
Date of Enlistment: 14.6.1915 at Scarborough NSW
Trade or Calling: Grocer’s assistant
Born in or near what Town: Scarborough NSW
Address prior to Enlistment: Scarborough NSW



He was just a fresh-faced 16-year-old when he was killed fighting with Australian troops in Gallipoli on November 7, 1915. Roy Henderson Robertson, from Scarborough in NSW, enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force’s 20th Infantry Battalion just four months before he was killed. A portrait of the grocer’s assistant, who rests at Gallipoli’s Walker’s Ridge Cemetery, has been in a collection owned by the State Library of NSW for almost a century.


Crown Street Studios. 'Louis Robert Bromham' c. 1918


Crown Street Studios
Louis Robert Bromham
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 9.8.1899
Date of Enlistment: 2.2.1918
Trade or Calling: Schoolteacher
Born in or near what Town: Coolamon
Address prior to Enlistment: Tooyal Nth, Coolamon


Crown Street Studios. 'Roy Wilfred Williams' c. 1918


Crown Street Studios
Roy Wilfred Williams
c. 1918
Date of Birth: 18.3.1900
Date of Enlistment: 24.4.1918
Trade or Calling: Carter
Born in or near what Town: Lithgow
Address prior to Enlistment: Pottery Estate Lithgow



State Library of New South Wales
Macquarie Street, Sydney
NSW 2000 Australia
Phone: +61 2 9273 1414

Opening hours:
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 10am – 5pm

State Library of New South Wales website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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