20th April 2021

He photographed Queen Victoria’s last visit to Dublin in 1900, steam engines in the United States, Brisbane’s Customs House in the age of the horse and carriage, camping trips along the Tweed River and life at Upper Coomera in the 1880s.

Now, a selection of digitised images taken and collected by Robert Augustus Henry L’Estrange (1858-1941), along with his photographic equipment, lantern slides, books and glass plates  can be viewed through QUT as part of the month-long Australian Heritage Festival which starts on 18 April, 2021.

Traversing the Globe: the L’Estrange photographic legacy runs on site, R Block Level 2 and Level 4 E Block Level 1 Data Wall and online  from Monday May 10 to Saturday May 15 (8am-1pm) at QUT’s Kelvin Grove campus and gives an extraordinary glimpse into places and a past that in some cases have been lost both in Queensland and around the world, all captured by the amateur photographer/collector.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, L’Estrange was an inveterate traveller and had a colourful career before and after emigrating to Queensland in the 1880s. He was a Captain in the Irish Army, surveyor in Africa and then in Cooktown, Qld before becoming the overseer of a sugar mill in Beenleigh, a bailiff at Beechmont and a farmer at Upper Coomera. In 1892 he returned to Ireland and became a hothouse gardener at an Kilternan Abbey, followed by a stint in real estate in Bournemouth, England, then a turn working on a ranch and in an orange orchard in California, USA.

Customs House, Brisbane, circa 1906. Photo: Robert L'Estrange

Documenting his global travels and family through the camera lens all the while, L’Estrange settled back in Brisbane in 1904 and built a house at Red Hill.  From 1904 to his retirement in 1927, he worked as a public relations and company photographer for his more well-known younger brother William Manderville Ellis L’Estrange, a director of the City Electric Light Company.

Curator of the exhibition and QUT Digital Collections Librarian Jill Rogers said the granddaughter of L’Estrange, Patricia Hemsley, donated some of his photographic hardware including a camera, developing equipment, books, prints and some glass plates/lantern slides to the then QUT photographer in the 1990s.

“Mrs Hemsley gave us approximately 300 items including 150 photographic prints taken by her grandfather and others,” said Ms Rogers.

“The collection was then boosted by a further donation in 2016 from QUT Alumnus David Hemsley, a great grandson of Mr L’Estrange. He generously gifted QUT Library another 1200 original glass plates/lantern slides and ephemera which had been digitised by family friend and photographer Michael Stephenson.

“A highlight of the digital collection is the digitised glass plates and accompanying Queen Victoria diary entries from her visit to Dublin in April 1900, all of which can be viewed here.

“Other photos capture Queensland houses, local landmarks like Customs House and St John’s Pro-Cathedral, family scenes, camping trips, life on the farm and images of Ireland, England, Europe and America.

“He captured the essence of his era; his time and place in history when photography was still a new artform and as far removed from the insta-photo world we live in today.  He did hand-colour his own lantern slides and glass plates and in some instances would have taken ‘selfies’.”


Robert L’Estrange and others on family camping trip, Tweed River (NSW) circa 1904


Ms Rogers said Traversing the Globe: the L’Estrange photographic legacy encompasses a digital presentation along with a traditional exhibition of never before displayed images to engage new audiences across the world.

Around one tenth of the digitised items will be featured as an interactive display on the Data Wall, E Block, Kelvin Grove, QUT campus from 8am-1pm, May 10-15, 2021.

QLD Parliament and Bellvue Hotel 1906. Photo: Robert L'Estrange

In addition, original hardware including the camera, glass plates, lantern slides, some books and journals will be on display on Level 2 and Level 4 of R Block (Library), Kelvin Grove, QUT Campus.

Ms Rogers will give a talk each day from 12.30pm to 1pm.

“When the Australian Heritage Festival finishes, the entire L’Estrange collection will remain available for viewing through the QUT Digital Collections/QUT Alumni Donations site,” she said.

“We expect a lot of local and international attention from people with an interest in in visual cultural history and photographic techniques of the time.”

More information is available at: Traversing the Globe: the L’Estrange photographic legacy and Exhibition background poster.

Curated talk locations:

  • Monday 10 May – QUT Kelvin Grove campus, E Block, room 152
  • Tuesday 11 May – QUT Kelvin Grove campus, E Block, room 257
  • Wednesday 12 May – QUT Kelvin Grove campus, E Block, room 153
  • Thursday 13 May – QUT Kelvin Grove campus, E Block, room 152
  • Friday 14 May – QUT Kelvin Grove campus, E Block, room 152
  • Saturday 15 May – QUT Kelvin Grove campus, E Block, room 152

Main image - Queen Victoria's Royal visit to Dublin, Ireland, 4th April - 26th April, 1900. Photo: Robert L'Estrange

Media contact:

Amanda Weaver, QUT Media, 07 3138 3151, amanda.weaver@qut.edu.au

After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901, media@qut.edu.au

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