Charles George Greenham was born around 1853, in Jersey, England. He arrived in Melbourne with his parents and 3 siblings aboard the Boanerges in 1862.
In 1873 he married Kate Murray, they had 5 children. She died in 1883 after the birth of their fifth child.
A second marriage for Charles George Greenham is registered on 25 Dec 1884 to Martha Hancock. At the time Charles was living in Richmond and had a studio in Fairmont Park, Hawthorn, called the Herodotus Studio, named after the ancient Greek historian and philosopher.
Charles also appears to have worked in Camperdown, near Warnambool in Victoria. In 1902 he mentioned he had been a photographer for around 20 years, so he would have started his trade around 1882.
At some point he meets Laura Inglis Evans who was born in 1865 in Ballarat, Victoria. Laura had been serving a lengthy apprenticeship with a number of leading Melbourne photographers and may have been working for Charles in the Herodotus Studio.
They move to Perth, Western Australia around June 1894, when the first mention of Greenham and Evans as a studio appears.
Charles worked as the photographer and Laura is described as a ‘particularly expert studio operator, developer, retoucher and a lot of other things connected with the plate and camera profession.’
However the newspapers continually referred to them as Messrs Greenham & Evans, even when they knew Evans was a Miss and later Mrs.
The couple probably arrived in WA earlier as by June they already had a number of Perth and Fremantle views for sale in the studio. They also travelled to Coolgardie in October to take photos of mining operations.
It could be assumed that the two fell in love in Victoria and ran away to WA as they couldn’t be together in VIC. It may have been that Charles left Martha for Laura as no death or divorce records can be found for Martha.
Back in those days it would have been highly inappropriate for a single woman to live with a man, but maybe only slightly acceptable if she were working for him (working relationship only), but to travel to the other side of the country with a man as a single women, would be quite controversial.
The couple married in Perth in December 1896 and it’s possible Martha had died in the meantime, meaning they could legally marry.
It’s unknown if Charles brought his 5 children with him, although it’s noted that two of his children did marry in Western Australia in the early 1900’s.
Laura’s sister also came over to WA around the same time.
Their studio operated at 175 Barrack Street, near the corner of Wellington St, in close proximity to the Perth Railway Station. Very quickly the couple set about expanding their business past portraiture, sending land and streetscape photos to WA and interstate newspapers that had the new technology capable of printing photographs.
Novelty sized Paris Panels were introduced by the studio in December 1895. These were larger than the standard cabinet cards of the 1890’s and came in 8″ x 6″ and ll” x 7″.
In November 1896 they expanded and moved into the newly built Queen’s Building, closer to the Murray Street intersection at 151 Barrack Street, occupying the top two floors of the building.
On the first floor was the main reception room and a furnished apartment. On the second floor was a second reception room, which led to a 40ft x 17ft studio, dressing rooms and waiting rooms all decorated with photographic art of the firm with special attention given to lighting.
A specialty of the studio was Platinotypes, which gave a greater tonal range in the finished print and were especially useful in portraiture, of which this studio was well known for.
The furnishing of the rooms was decorated by the now Mrs Greenham, with the newspapers exclaiming that ‘the result does great credit to that lady’s taste.’
In January 1899, Laura tried her hand a becoming a social photographer for the local newspapers, taking photos at Perth events, particularly the races, showcasing the socialites of the city which also fuelled her passion for fashion. The West Australian said she ‘has proved herself not only a photographer but an artist in the beauty of the pictures which she has turned out.’
For the 1900 Paris Exhibition, 600 Greenham & Evans photos, along with £100,000 in gold nuggets, were sent to France for display in the Westralia wing. The studio was awarded a bronze medal for their photography exhibit.
Two years later, fire broke out in their former studio next door, in August 1902. Von Petz had moved there after Greenham & Evans had their new studio built and it went up in flames after Petz failed to pay his accruing rent. The landlord, Mr Freecorn was charged with arson. Charles Greenham was called to give evidence and implied he knew Freecorn had wilfully set fire to a matchbox partition in the building. Greenham was not happy with his former landlord saying, ‘I admit I have expressed my opinion of him in very strong terms.’
An auction was held after the fire to sell Petz’s photographic equipment but Greenham said it was not worth much with Petz’ goods mostly old and obsolete.
Flash photography, although first invented using magnesium wire in 1887, had been refined enough that by the early 1900’s it produced short, sharp flashes using magnesium powder with potassium chlorate. This now made it suitable for indoor portraiture and Greenham & Evans were among the first to use it in Perth.
In August 1904 they opened a studio branch in Bunbury on Wellington Street opposite the Rose Hotel. Photos would be taken by an employee, Mr W.C. Ford, and then sent to Perth for finishing by Mrs Greenham and her retouchers. The studio was described as lavish and even devoted an entire room as a photographic gallery of their work.
The Perth studio moved again around January 1908, staying in the same street but now opposite Nicholson’s Music Store between Hay & Murray Street. They’d only been there a short time when a fire started in the studio ceiling. It appeared to be an electrical fault from a ceiling light, fortunately not much damage occurred, but it did push back the official opening of the new studio by a month.
The papers were quick the wax lyrical of their photographic friends, saying, “the new surroundings now outwardly express the inward artistic grace for which the firm has always stood. The impression given by the entrance, with its originally-designed showcases filled with pictures of various kinds, set against a background of soft green, and its handsome, polished staircase is of the best, and is further heightened on arrival at the first floor by the glimpse of plain art green oilcloth, on which are laid beautiful Turkey carpets in rich scarlet. The design of the upstairs passages with their white pillared walls and alcoves is particularly happy, and lends itself well to the clever treatment given it of rich red curtains, feathers, pot-plants, and mirrors galore…The studio, as may be imagined, is replete with every convenience. There are two ladies’ dressing rooms handsomely furnished, and one set apart for gentlemen. The effect gained by pretty carnets and bright curtains, easy chairs, etc., is all that could be desired. The studio itself has been planned to ensure perfect lighting.”
That year the Government commissioned the couple to travel around Western Australia taking photos intended for exhibition at the Franco-British Exhibition where they awarded a gold medal for one of their photos.
In March 1909, Mr Ford acquired the Bunbury branch, running the studio under his own name.
In August 1911 the couple decided to take a lengthy holiday in England. Eight months later they returned with Charles mentioning his amazement at the London traffic, autumn leaves and the proliferation of the Limited Liability (Ltd) companies over there.
It was not long after, in March 1912 that they decided to leave Perth and return to the east coast, making their new home in Sydney.
Mr. C. S. Bardwell Clarke took over the Barrack Street business, renaming it Lafayette Studios.
By December 1914, Charles and Laura had moved to Newcastle and opened Greenham Studios at 53 Hunter Street.
In the early months of 1921 they moved again, this time to Victoria, where they briefly opened in the country town of Colac.
It’s likely that by 1924 they were working from Malvern in Melbourne and brought out a souvenir album with lots of Melbourne photos included.
In early 1925 they moved once more to Geelong, Victoria, reverting to the Greenham & Evans name, opening a studio in the Commonwealth Bank Chambers on Moorabool Street.
Tragically Charles died shortly after arrival on 10 February 1925. Laura continued on the business but moved to Melbourne by the end of the year. It’s unknown, but likely that she continued in the photographic trade. A few photos exist bearing ‘Laura Greenham’ which may have been taken after her husband passed.
Laura died in Melbourne in 1943, aged 78.
Examples of Greenham & Evans photos
Place cursor over photo for suggested photo dates