G. R. Lambert & Co., a photographic studio, was established by Gustave Richard Lambert on 10 April 1867 at 1 High Street. The vast collection of prints produced by the studio now serve as a comprehensive source of photographic documentation of early Singapore.
With the advent of photographic technology and an increase in the numbers of Western tourists visiting Singapore, photographic prints produced by Eastern-based studios became popular in the 1870s in the form of tourism souvenirs. The closure of competing studio, Sachtler & Co., provided an opportunity for G. R. Lambert & Co. to ride on the tides and become the “leading photographic artists of Singapore” at the time. Lambert actively managed his business until the 1880s before he left for Europe and handed over the management of the Singapore branch to his partner, Alexander Koch. From the mid-1890s to the 1900s, Koch expanded the business and established studios at Gresham House, Battery Road and Orchard Road. During its heydays, the company also maintained regional branch studios in Medan (Sumatra), Deli (Sumatra), Kuala Lumpur (Federated Malay States) and Bangkok (Siam). The studio was also appointed the official photographer for King Chulalongkorn of Siam and the Sultan of Johor, Abu Bakar.
A typical print produced by Lambert possessed the picturesque qualities needed to make it saleable in the 19th century. These meant producing sweeping panoramic landscape and architectural views of the burgeoning city of Singapore as well as studio portraitures. By the early 20th century, the studio was credited for having the most comprehensive photographic documentation of the topography and peoples of Southeast Asia. It offered one of the finest collections of landscape views in the East, which comprised about 3,000 prints on Siam, Singapore, Borneo, Malaya and China. However, continuous improvements in photographic technology soon made available other forms of photographic print formats that replaced albumen prints, and subsequently made amateur photography possible. As demand for professional photography declined, G. R. Lambert & Co. officially closed its doors in 1918.
1. Notice. (1867, May 13). The Singapore Daily Times [Microfilm: NL 5217].
2. Wright, A., & Cartwright, H. A. (Eds.). (1908). Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya: Its history, people, commerce, industries, and resources [Microfilm: NL 8008, 16084, 14009] (p. 702). London: Lloyd’s Greater Britain Pub.
3. Falconer, J. (1987). A vision of the past: A history of early photography in Singapore and Malaya: The photographs of G. R. Lambert & Co., 1880–1910 (p. 30). Liu, G. (Ed.). Singapore: Times Editions. Call no.: RSING 779.995957 FAL.
4. Page 4 Advertisements Column 4. (1893, September 29). The Straits Times, p. 4; Page 5 Advertisements Column 3. (1902, September 8). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Falconer, 1987, p. 33–34.
6. Page 1 Advertisements Column 3. (1896, May 14). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. The Straits Times, 8 Sep 1902, p. 5.
8. Falconer, 1987, p. 37.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.