professional photographer and sketcher, was born in Hobart Town on 17 December 1834, second son of Joseph William Woolley (1797-1880), a cabinetmaker, and of Frances née Facy. From about 1859 to 1870 Charles Woolley worked as a photographer at 42 Macquarie Street in premises adjacent to his father’s upholstery and carpet warehouse. He took wet-plate photographic views of Hobart and its environs, including stereos such as Rocking Stone, on Mount Wellington (1859) in Alfred Abbott 's album and The Old Theological Institute, Hobart Town (1860s, Archives Office of Tasmania, Hobart, Tas). A woodcut of Government House, Hobart Town , taken from one of Woolley’s photographs, appeared in the Illustrated Melbourne Post in 1864. Like most photographers, Woolley mainly took portrait photographs. Numerous examples are extant including some overpainted with watercolours. Henry Button wrote that Henry Dowling 's portrait of Sir Richard Dry (Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tas.) was painted in England from a Woolley photograph. More unusual were the seven published photographs Woolley took of four tableaux vivants designed and produced by Louisa Anne Meredith at Government House, Hobart Town, on 18 January 1866. Major Thomas Wingate took one photograph in the set and the eight were published later that year as an album, Souvenir of the Masques of Christmas, and of the Old and New Year . Most of Woolley’s photographs illustrate aspects of the festive season in the antipodes, but Second Tableau – Right Group shows four men and a woman representing Australian industries: a gold-digger, vine-grower, reaper, shearer and gleaner. In 1868 Woolley was one of the photographers appointed to cover the Hobart Town visit of the Duke of Edinburgh.
Woolley is best known for his photographic portraits of the five surviving Oyster Cove Aborigines taken in August 1866 and exhibited at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition later that year. The Tasmanian Commissioners considered them 'admirable likenesses’ and ordered them to be 'framed in Colonial woods – two women in each frame and the man in a frame by himself’. (At the Colonial Eye conference in 1999 Anne Maxwell mentioned that Woolley exhibited a portrait of Trugannini at the 1866 Melbourne Colonial but is said to have taken her nude at the same time for 'anthropological institutes’.) The 'man in a frame by himself’ was, of course, William Lanne (also called 'King Billy’) who reportedly objected that the portrait was 'too black for him’.
Engravings after the photographs appeared in James Bonwick’s The Last of the Tasmanians (1870), Enrico Giglioli’s I Tasmaniani (1871), and many subsequent publications. Woolley again exhibited prints of them at the 1875 Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition held preparatory to the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition. Several sets of the original prints survive, especially in English collections, as well as copies made later by the Tasmanian photographer J.W. Beattie. In 1869, after Lanne’s death, the desecration of the graveside by two competing parties of resurrectionists (letter to Editor from 'Humanitas’, TT 22 March 1869, cited Petrow p.102) and the inquiry over the mutilation of his body, the Evening Mail (16 April 1869) advertised that a 'complete, full sized bust of William Lanne by artist Franciso Sante’ could be seen by the Hobart Town public for a small fee. At the same time: 'In the storage rooms of Walch and Sons and Birchall’s bookshops “numerous” busts of Lanne’s head produced by Charles Woolley could be found’ (Petrov, p.99, citing Hobart Town Examiner 10 April 1869). Woolley is not otherwise known as a sculptor and Sante is not thought to be known at all. An anonymous cartoon about the evil graveside robbers testifying against their rival resurrectionist, the noble Dr William Crowther, is in the Tasmaniana Library.
Woolley was married twice: to Ada, eldest daughter of C.H. Huxtable of Elphinstone Road, Hobart Town, on 19 July 1866, then to Harriett Elizabeth, second daughter of George Burn of Hobart Town, on 13 July 1876.