William James Hall was a prominent photographer in Australia during the early 20th century. Born in Sydney in 1877, Hall was the son of William Frederick Hall, a butcher and fingerprint expert who established a photographic studio in Sydney in 1890. After being schooled locally, young William joined his father to learn the art of photography and eventually took over the business around 1902. He set up Hall & Co. at 44 Hunter Street in 1904.
Hall was a keen sailor and developed a strong interest in sailing craft, resulting in one of the most valuable marine photographic collections in Australia. His collection of 3000 glass plates, now housed in the archives of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron, provides an in-depth and fascinating look at competitive and recreational sailing on Sydney Harbour, as well as the associated social activities. Hall’s photographs are notable for their attention to detail, both in terms of the boats and the backgrounds, and his technical proficiency, given the limitations of his equipment at the time.
In addition to his maritime photography, Hall was known for his work in livestock photography, which he was widely considered to have pioneered in Australia. Some of his best works appeared in a four-volume record of pastoral life, “The Pastoral Homes of Australia” (1910-14), and were published in leading pastoral journals, including the Pastoral Review and Graziers’ Record. In 1928-1929, Hall made a tour of South Africa to photograph merino studs.
Hall’s portfolio was not limited to marine and livestock photography, as he was also experienced in other genres, including landscape photography, portraiture, city and rural life, aerial photography and military work. He married twice in his lifetime, with his second wife, Edith Hannah Gilkes, whom he married in 1940. He lived in Mary Street, overlooking the Lane Cove River, and passed away in 1951 at St Luke’s Hospital, Darlinghurst.
William James Hall was a versatile and skilled photographer who made a significant impact in the photography industry in Australia. He was admired for his artistic eye, technical proficiency and his wide-ranging interests in different photography genres, which have left a lasting legacy for future generations to appreciate.