British photographic history

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I was fortunate enough to make a quick stop in Singapore last month to view the exhibition 'The Originals of GR Lambert' which is currently on show at the Philatelic Museum - as mentioned in an earlier blog.

According to the literature, Mr Lambert (b 1846), from Dresden, Germany, is one of the earliest commercial photographers in the region. The first mention of GR Lambert & Co was an advertisement
placed in the Singapore Daily Times in April 1867 to inform the local community of the opening of his studio on No 1 High Street. Mr Lambert produced high quantities of large format original photographs (8 x 10 inches) featuring local landscapes and people for sale to the public.

However, at the turn of the century,Mr Lambert and other professional photographers were challenged by the rise of family photographers and amateur photographic societies. As a result, they diversified their business quickly to producing postcards and servicing the needs of amateurs. This new century ushered in the profitable postcard craze which reached its greatest height of popularity from 1906 to 1913, a period which collectors refer to as the Golden Age of Picture Postcards.

The first picture postcard of Singapore was produced by Lambert in 1897. It was said that the company had a
turnover of about a quarter of a million postcards per year. The outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 brought an abrupt end to this Golden Age, and Lambert & Co ceased operation when the war ended in 1918.

It is difficult to make any assessment of Mr Lambert's own photographic contribution as his presence in Singapore was sporadic. The firm was managed by Mr Alexander Koch, who entered the business as an assistant around 1883 to 1884. His position as Manager was taken over by Mr H T Jensen, who ran the
business from around 1908 to 1910.

Beautifully presented, curated and well worth a visit. The collection is donated by a Mr Koh Seow Chuan, an avid and renowned collector in Singapore. The exhibition only finishes on 2nd Jan 2011, so there is still time to pay a visit if you happen to be in the Far East. Highly recommended.

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