The first professional photographer known to have worked in Australia. Although many local citizens had to endure 'about half a minute' of immobility and sweltering heat, his photographs were extremely popular although many have not survived to this day.
professional photographer and publican, came to Sydney from England in the Eden arriving on 5 November 1842, which made him the first professional photographer known to have worked in Australia. Having taken lessons from Louis Daguerre in Paris, Goodman had purchased a licence to take photographs within specified British colonies from Richard Beard of London, Britain being the only nation to have patented the invention. Beard advertised colonial licences in The Times on 18 April 1842, just in time for Goodman to respond before leaving for the antipodes on 15 June. He officially opened his Daguerreotype Gallery at the Royal Hotel, Sydney, on 12 December 1842. There he enticed many local citizens to endure 'about half a minute’ of immobility and sweltering heat on the hotel’s roof, reputedly enclosed in a blue glass box, then to pay a guinea for the resulting small metal plate plus another 6s or so for the essential protective case or frame in which to keep it. Hardly surprisingly, when recollecting these experiences on 14 January 1845, a Sydney Morning Herald reporter wrote that the resulting daguerreotypes had 'a want of life in the portraits, and a sameness in all, which made many prefer the ordinary miniature paintings’. On 4 May 1846 another Herald reporter referred to the 'cadaverous, unearthly appearance’ of these pioneer portraits. Nevertheless, as all reports noted, they were extremely popular.
In January 1843 Goodman was offering full-length portraits, groups and landscapes, still from his upper-storey studio at the Royal Hotel. On 13 April, four months after opening, he was advertising that the sitting time required—with the aid of the Australian sunlight and a new camera acquired in February—was only ten seconds. Although possibly an exaggeration, it was certainly a great improvement on the ten to fifteen minutes’ exposure needed for Daguerre’s first experiments. Houses, animals and children ('except of very tender years’) were added to the subjects suitable for his camera, although until the beginning of 1845 he continued to be able to take photographs only out-of-doors.
In April and May 1843 Goodman announced that he was about to leave for Hobart Town and would then go on to India and the other British colonies covered by his patent, but on 29 May he advertised 'that on account of the continual demand for Daguerreotype Portraits’ he would delay his departure a month. Not only business was keeping him in Sydney. On 4 June 1843, he married Miss S. Polack. On 3 August they left in the Louisa for Van Diemen’s Land, presumably accompanied by Goodman’s young assistant John Flavelle. His daguerreotype studio operated from Mrs Wilmot’s boarding-house, 20 Patrick Street, Hobart Town, until February 1844. Since his colonial licence granted him an Australian monopoly, Goodman threatened Thomas Bock with legal action when Bock advertised 'photographic likenesses’ in September 1843. Bock’s advertisements ceased.
Views as well as portraits are recorded in Tasmania but no extant examples are known. The Hobart Town Courier of 26 January 1844 especially praised his 'beautifully executed Daguerreotype Views of our rising metropolis. They are not unlike a fine dark-grounded copper engraving, or rather a mezzotint, and represent the original with more felicity even than in the case of portraits done by the Daguerreotype. The enterprising artist, Mr. Goodman, is obliged to prolong his stay on this side of the island in order to execute orders for these views.’ Colonial Secretary James Bicheno was said to have purchased a set. After visiting Launceston in February, Goodman returned to Sydney (not India) in March 1844 and set up a studio at the rear of his residence, 49 Hunter Street, where he continued to charge a guinea for a portrait. Unless coloured, when it paid for the likeness only, this now included a 'handsome gilt and morocco frame’. In February 1845, having received a guaranteed list of 100 people wishing to have their portraits taken, Goodman travelled to Bathurst. His earliest surviving dateable daguerreotypes were taken there on 3 May 1845: a portrait of Sarah Anne Lawson, aged seven (ML), her mother, Caroline, and her younger brother, Thomas (Prospect Trust).
Goodman worked in Melbourne from 11 August to 31 December 1845 then went to Adelaide for a few weeks in February 1846. He managed to produce a very large number of daguerreotypes during his short visit to South Australia. R.J. Noye points out that in one three-day session in Adelaide he took eighty likenesses (still at a guinea each). On 26 February 1846, Captain Thomas Henry Fox noted in his diary that his passengers on board ship included 'Mr. Goodman, the daguerreotypist, with his wife, child and servant, who occupy the after cabin. He has just completed a profitable tour of the Colonies in the exercise of his art, having taken 870 likenesses in Port Phillip and upwards of 400 in Adelaide.’
Back at Sydney, Goodman announced that Beard had notified him of further improved processes and he was therefore setting up new premises at 321 Castlereagh Street North. Here he produced larger daguerreotypes which included 'drawing-rooms, libraries, gardens’ and other painted backdrops. In September 1846 he was at Newcastle, engaged to take photographs of local buildings and advising that from 13-22 September he would be available to take likenesses at Farquharson’s Hotel. He then went to Maitland and took portraits in George Yeoman’s Hotel for two weeks from 19 November. On 23 December, from Sydney, he stated that he had 'completed his collection of views of all parts of the interior’ and therefore could 'embellish his portraits with scenery from any part of New South Wales the sitter may prefer, and particularly recommends to squatters, &c., &c., his extensive specimens of bush landscapes, giving to the Daguerreotype portraits the double advantage of a fac simile likeness, and a highly finished local back ground’. February and March 1847 were spent belatedly working from Mr Mandelson’s Hotel in Goulburn, 'having been requested by several families to visit the above district’ hitherto omitted from his itinerary.
After returning to Sydney in April, Goodman sold the business to his brother-in-law Isaac Polack and moved on—to a new career not another continent. In July 1847 he opened his Circular Quay Hotel next door to the Sydney Customs House. He briefly reverted to photography at the end of 1849, as the Herald reported: 'Mr. G.B. Goodman will resume the Daguerreotype during the temporary absence of Mr. J. [sic] Polack’. Then he sold up and the family returned to London. Goodman had taken several thousand daguerreotypes during his Australian years, yet very few have been identified. Perhaps his successors were right in claiming that these early images rapidly went black and disappeared.
From London Goodman and his family proceeded to Paris. He died there in June 1851 after a short illness.