Portrait of Augusta Curiel

Augusta Curiel (1873-1937) was a Surinamese photographer. At the age of 31 she set up her first studio together with her younger sister Anna, who helped her with everything around the photography. They were known as “The Sisters’ or ‘The Curiel Ladies’.

Curiel was not the first woman to take up photography in colonial Suriname, but she was the first person ever in Suriname to receive an official appointment by queen Wilhelmina. In 1929 she was proudly appointed ‘court photographer’. The sisters became the most famous photographers at the time. 

Augusta Curiel always worked on commission. There was a wide variation in assignments from private individuals, organizations and (government) institutions. Augusta made group portraits, wedding photos and class photos. local people, street scenes, sugar plantages, orphanages and much more.  

Augusta and Anna must have made thousands of pictures in the period 1904 – 1937. An estimated 1,200 have been preserved. The photos are made with a great sense of composition and technique. Augusta Curiel’s photos provide a unique (though may be a little too rosy because all commissioned) of Suriname in the early decades of the twentieth century.