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Portrait of theatre actress Beryl Sidney sitting on a bench on board RMS MOLDAVIA II

Date: 26 January 1924
Medium: Emulsion on glass
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Photographs
Object Name: Glass plate negative
Object No: 00024207
Place Manufactured:Cremorne Point
Related Place:Robertsons Point, Sydney Harbour,

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    Description
    This image probably depicts theatre actress Beryl Sidney sitting on a bench on board P&O Steam Navigation Company's RMS MOLDAVIA II. The photograph was possibly taken around the time of the 136th Anniversary Regatta, which took place in Sydney Harbour on 26 January 1924. The vessel was the flagship at the event and a luncheon was hosted on board for distinguished guests. Among those invited were guests of honour Governor-General Lord Henry William Forster, Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Cullen and Vice Admiral Saito Shichigoro of the visiting Imperial Japanese Navy squadron.

    Little is known of Sidney's life, however, newspaper articles in 'The Straits Times' of Singapore report that she travelled from Sydney to Singapore with the Lawson-Sidney Comedy Company in September 1929. She played the role of the glamorous American widow Larita in 'Easy Virtue' on 16 September and Laura Bartlett in 'Fair and Warmer' three days later at Singapore's historic Victoria Theatre. The text written on the right of the image reads:

    'Miss Beryl Sidney
    taking a company ('of English' crossed out) called
    The English Players to India and East.'
    SignificanceThe Samuel J Hood photographic collection records an extensive range of maritime activity on Sydney Harbour, including sail and steam ships, crew portraits, crews at work, ship interiors, stevedores loading and unloading cargo, port scenes, pleasure boats and harbourside social activities from the 1890s through to the 1950s. They are also highly competent artistic studies and views - Hood was regarded as an important figure in early Australian photojournalism. Hood’s maritime photographs are one of the most significant collections of such work in Australia.
    HistoryRMS MOLDAVIA II was initially built as a single funnel in 1921 by Cammell Laird and Company at Birkenhead for Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. It was launched on 1 October 1921 and was designed to service the passenger trade between Britain and Australia via Marseilles, Suez and Colombo. It could accommodate 840 tourist class passengers.

    In 1928, it was fitted with a second (artificial) funnel in light of criticisms of its outmoded appearance. Despite its old-fashioned design, MOLDAVIA was able to serve the passenger trade between England and Australia for fifteen years before the ship was superseded by the new ‘Strath’ liners. MOLDAVIA made its final voyage from Sydney to Tilbury on 17 September 1937 before it was scrapped in 1938.

    In 1899, Sam Hood established his own portrait business at The Adelaide Photographic Co, 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. Hood would approach a ship on the assigned tug boat and photograph it as it lay off Sydney Heads. Once the ship reached the dock, Hood would board the vessel and approach the captain to allow him to sell the photographs of the ship to the crew. The captain authorised for the photographs to be paid for by the shipping company and then deducted a fee from the crew's wages.

    In addition to the photographs, Hood worked with ship artists to produce views of vessels under sail. In turn, Hood’s photographs of vessels with their sails furled were used by artists to paint ship portraits. Hood would approach the captain of a ship with a painting in oil or watercolour and ask to borrow the rigging plan on the promise of a similar work.

    Hood is known to have worked with maritime artists Walter Barratt, Reginald Arthur Borstel, George Frederick Gregory, and John Allcot, who was reputedly hired from the MILTIADES after Hood spotted him peddling his wares on board.

    The State Library of NSW holds a significant collection of Hood photographs. The ANMM collection comprises some 9,000 photographs of maritime subjects. It documents the end of the sailing ship era and the growing dominance of steam vessels. This technological advancement had implications for Hood’s business, as steamship crews were less inclined to request photographs of their vessels.

    During the 1910s, Hood had acquired cheap premises at the Dore Studio in the Queen Victoria Markets and continued to produce studio portraits, in addition to ship photography. In 1918, however, Hood transferred to Dalny Studio at 124 Pitt Street, Sydney. Originally owned by Thomas Cleary, Dalny Studio had a contract to supply photographs to the newspapers, Melbourne Argus and the Australasian. This soon also included the Daily Guardian, Daily Telegraph Pictorial, The Labour Daily, Daily News, Sun, and The Sydney Morning Herald. During the 1920s, Hood's work moved from the social and sport pages of newspapers into mainstream reportage.

    During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Hood’s employees included his children Ted and Gladys, as well as several photographers who went onto successful careers as press photographers for various newspapers. At the outbreak of the Second World War, Hood, aged 70, was recruited by the Ministry of News and Information to document the armed services. This period also witnessed the decline of formal studio portraits, which led the Hood studio to pursue more commercial commissions.

    Sam Hood continued working at his studio up until his death in June 1953. He had used the same modified Folmer & Schwing Graflex camera for over forty years.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Miss Beryl Sidney taking a Company called the English Players to India and East MOLDAVIA P&O

    Web title: Portrait of theatre actress Beryl Sidney sitting on a bench on board RMS MOLDAVIA II

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