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Booking hall in the Orient Line building in Sydney

Date: February 1940
Medium: Emulsion on acetate film
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Photographs
Object Name: Negative
Object No: 00021253
Place Manufactured:Sydney

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    Description
    Praised at the time as the ultimate expression of European elegance and modern simplicity, the Orient Line building opened in February 1940. This image depicts the booking hall and client area.
    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.
    HistoryThe Orient Line building, office of the Orient Steam Navigation Company, was situated in Spring St Sydney and was designed in 1938 by Fowell, McConnel & Mansfield in association with Mr Brian O'Rorke of London. It opened in February 1940 and was described by 'Art in Australia' as a 'valuable contribution to the architecture of the city' (23 May 1940, p. 75). The publication went on to describe it:

    'Simple, almost to the point of severity, it possesses those all too elusive qualities of satisfying proportion...It is a modern building, the design of which has almost religiously followed its function, but its architects have captured the spirit of classic elegance....' (Art in Australia, 23 May 1940, p. 75).

    'The Sydney Morning Herald' also noted the 'clean lines of contemporary European architecture' and described the exterior of the lower levels as 'faced with antique Italian travertine filled and honed'. The facade was also made of 'white Hawkesbury sandstone' and the fifth floor comprised the staff luncheon room which was equipped with a kitchenette and sun deck with a range of games including deck tennis made available.

    The design of the building and the media attention it attracted drew artists and photographers to it. Among them was Samuel Hood. Hood created a series of photographs of the interior and exterior of the building. The building is still in existence today, however, it underwent considerable change to its original interior during the 1980s. The facade was also shifted and made part of the building now at 1 O'Connell Street.

    Samuel (Sam) John Hood (1872-1953) was born at Glenelg, Adelaide in 1872. His father, John Hood, was a photographer who worked for 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.

    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: THE NEW ORIENT LINE BUILDING, 2-4-6 SPRING STREET, SYDNEY

    Web title: Booking hall in the Orient Line building in Sydney

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