In the depths of the Australian National Maritime Museum’s photographic collections, as you would expect, there are lots of pictures of boats. Boats of all kinds: yachts, warships, passenger liners, ferries, tugs, steamships, motor launches – you name it. Recently I have been cataloguing the photographic collection of a relatively obscure Sydney photographer, William Hall (1877-1951). Hall’s images are simply gorgeous. Despite not being a sailing man himself, Hall took to the water each weekend to capture the vessels, sailors and spectators that converged on Sydney Harbour for the weekend racing carnivals. He became a fixture on the harbour, expertly handling his camera despite the rough and wet conditions as his motor boat wove through the competitive vessels. Each Monday Hall would display his photographs in his shopfront window, becoming a regular attraction as people crowded to see the images and discuss the weekend’s races. The images themselves are generally quite candid – crew members throwing their hands up to wave at the spotted photographer, yachts dipping, flying, crashing and sinking and the beautiful blooms of the vessel’s sails as they capture the winds of the harbour.
As much as I enjoy working with these sailing images, I was delighted to find a number of studio portraits within the William Hall collection. There are portraits of men, some family shots and the occasional wedding – but most strikingly there are a number of beautiful portraits of women. Some appear to be actresses, and indeed several are wearing costumes. Others are perhaps client commissions from Hall’s photographic studio and tantalisingly even have the illegible remnants of a name at the top of the glass plate negative. All of the photographs appear to capture a little something of their subjects, an extraction of personality through the pose, their dress, the look, the lighting. They are intriguing and evocative.
Who are these women?
Well that’s something we are hoping you can help us with. Do any of the faces look familiar to you? If you can provide any information at all hop on over to our Flickr site and let us know! If anything, just enjoy looking through these beautiful photographs.