60 years on, thanks for all the photographs Sam

Ship's officer with pet dog on SS CHINDWARA, 1912-1933 Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio ANMM Collection

Ship’s officer with pet dog on SS Chindwara, 1912-1933
Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

Much of what I research seems to gravitate toward the museum’s Samuel J Hood photographic collection. Even when I try to focus on a specific historical event, the odds are, Sam or one of his photographers were there snapping away and I’m left spellbound by a spectacular series of glass plate negatives. Sixty years ago today, we lost one of our most prolific and compelling photographers. We lost a man who ensured that much of early twentieth-century Sydney was documented for us to appreciate today.

Samuel John Hood was born at Glenelg, Adelaide in 1872. His father, John Hood, was a photographer who worked for Townsend Duryea’s Adelaide Photographic Company. In 1883 John moved with his family to Sydney, and in 1884 Sam followed his lead and began work for another photographer, William Tuttle in Tuttle’s Studio, George Street, Sydney.

Gertrude Mathieson and Captain Mathieson posing on board ANTIOPE, 1906-1916 Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio ANMM Collection

Gertrude Mathieson and Captain Mathieson posing on board Antiope, 1906-1916
Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

Family on the deck of the ship, Mount Stewart Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio ANMM Collection

Family on the deck of the ship, Mount Stewart
Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

In 1899, Sam Hood established his own portrait business at The Adelaide Photographic Company, 256 Pitt St, Sydney. Due to two fires in the studio in the early years he worked from his Balmain home, where he constructed a darkroom and photographed the shipping trade and waterfront workers, which provided a steady income for his growing family. Sam would approach a ship on the assigned tug boat and photograph it as it lay off Sydney Heads. Once the ship reached the dock, Sam would board the vessel and approach the captain to allow him to sell the photographs of the ship to the crew. As Sam’s career progressed, he began to focus his lens on documenting not just ships and their crew but international naval fleet visits, Sydney’s social occasions, troopship deployments, maritime disasters and departing cruise liners. He also established his own studio at Dalny Studio, 124 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Sailors from the Japanese Imperial Naval Squadron observe a hippopotamus at Taronga Zoo, 28 January 1924 Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio ANMM Collection

Sailors from the Japanese Imperial Naval Squadron observe a hippopotamus at Taronga Zoo, 28 January 1924
Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

German sailors with a wallaby on board the German cruiser KOLN, May 1933 Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio ANMM Collection

German sailors with a wallaby on board the German cruiser Koln, May 1933
Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

Two sailors cleaning a propeller of the French warship Bellatrix, 1930-1932 Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio ANMM Collection

Two sailors cleaning a propeller of the French warship Bellatrix, 1930-1932
Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio
ANMM Collection

The Australian National Maritime Museum collection comprises over 9,000 of Sam’s photographs and the State Library of New South Wales also holds a significant collection his work. The photographs in our collection demonstrate the versatility of Sam’s talent and the longevity of his career. They document the booming shipping trade of the 1890s and the decline of the sailing ship as steam-powered vessels flourished and the last of the grand barques, schooners and barquentines departed Sydney Harbour. You can see how his work developed from portraits of shipping families and crew members from the 1890s to the 1910s, to glamorous snaps of naval events during the 1920s and 1930s and historic photographs of troops marching off to both wars.

HM Troopship Queen Mary in Sydney Harbour, May 1940 Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio

HM Troopship Queen Mary in Sydney Harbour, May 1940
Photographer: Samuel J Hood Studio

Sam continued working at his studio up until 8 June 1953 when, at the age of 83, he died after he collapsed near Central Station in Eddy Avenue on his way home. He had used the same modified Folmer and Schwing Graflex camera for over 40 years. Sam’s work now offers us a glimpse into a world we can no longer access. A glass plate negative can be a window into the past and though it may at first portray a nameless person in an unfamiliar context, as you examine them closer, even the tiniest clues can lead you on an exciting winding path of historical discovery. Sixty years on, his photographs continue to inspire and enthral. So thanks Sam, thanks for all the photographs.

Nicole Cama
Curatorial assistant

Useful links and further reading:

  • Check out a select number of Sam Hood photographs from our collection over at Flickr Commons.
  • Alan Davies, Sydney Exposures: Through the eyes of Sam Hood and his studio 1925-1950, State Library of New South Wales, 1991.
  • Patricia Miles, Little Shipmates: seafaring pets, Signals 82 (Mar – May 2008), pp 34-35.

8 thoughts on “60 years on, thanks for all the photographs Sam

  1. Would you like a photo of HMAS Sydney and HMS Queen Elizabeth when they were in Sydney Harbour on February 21, 1941 taken by my father as he left port onboard Awatea bound for Canada and the EATS. Peter

  2. Capt. Mathieson was master of the sailing ship Antiope from 1905 to 1915. I believe that all the photo’s in this Sam Hood collection of the Antiope are incorrectly tagged with Capt Mathieson’s 3rd wife Gertrude. The lady in the photographs is actually his 2nd wife, Emma Sarah Mathieson (nee Bech). They married in Sydney in July 1912 and were divorced around 1927. Capt Mathieson didn’t marry his 3rd wife Gertrude until April 1930.

    • Hi Terry, thank you very much for your comment. I will reply to you in a separate email with a more detailed answer.
      Nicole

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