Sam Hood's career began in the late 1880s. He ran a successful business in ships portraits (these negatives are now held by the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney) and portraits of people in the late nineteenth - early twentieth century. What is most compelling is Sam Hood's adaptability to the changing nature of commercial photography. He opened his first studio in 1899 and the main source of income was generated from the main application of photography in the day - portraiture and weddings. Sam also supplemented this with income generated from selling finished and framed images of sailing vessels to the crews of vessels as they arrived in Sydney Harbour. He is reputed to have photographed every vessel that entered the Sydney harbor during a career that spanned 60 years (1890s-1950s).
In 1918 he acquired the Dalny Studio at 124 Pitt Street, and began to expand his business into press photography, providing photographs for The Sydney Mail, the Australasian, the Daily Guardian, the Daily Telegraph Pictorial, the Labor Daily, the Sun, the Daily News and The Sydney Morning Herald. Press photography increasingly came to dominate his business, and in 1934 he joined the Labor Daily for a short time as a full-time photographer, engaging other staff to look after his studio. At the beginning of Sam's career photography in newspapers was a novelty and although the technology to reproduce half tone illustrations was in use by 1880 the Australian papers and in particular wood engravers whose job it was to illustrate articles resisted the new process. The Sydney Morning Herald did not reproduce a photograph until 1908. Sam Hood is acknowledged as a trailblazer in this genre - becoming adept at capturing the sensational, trivial and in particular sporting moments with his camera. A number of photographers worked for Dalny Studio: some of these include Ernie Bowen, Gus Daley, Jack Lazern, Lethington Maitland as well as Sam's own children Gladys and Ted.
By the mid-1930s most newspapers employed their own photographers, and Hood's commissions from the papers began to decline. Hood sought other kinds of commissions, and won a number of long term advertising and commercial contracts. He contributed a number of photographs of Sydney buildings and streets to Building, Construction and Australasian Engineer during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Hood also had extensive contacts in the entertainment industry, who called upon him to document celebrity events and stars, as well as theatre advertising. Throughout his career he worked at the stock-in-trade for commercial photographers: portraits, weddings and even funerals.
The State Library of NSW acquired a collection of negatives from Sam's daughter Gladys Hood in 1973 comprising some 30,000 images. Sam Hood's story is well documented in a volume produced by that institution and there are several images from that collection of Sam Hood with cameras and accessories included in this acquisition.
- Australian National Maritime Museum Samuel J Hood Collection on Flickr: The Commons
- Sam Hood's photos
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