professional photographer, stated in an early Sydney advertisement that he had begun taking photographs in 1841 and from 1850 had worked for the large firm of Meade Brothers in New York. He married Elizabeth, née Gates, widow of Mr (Daniel?) Metcalfe, in New York, mother of the photographer D.F. Metcalfe . They had at least one son, Thomas Skelton Middleton Glaister (c.1851-77). Glaister came to Melbourne early in 1854 apparently to set up a Victorian studio for Meades, but by April 1855 he had opened a Sydney studio in his own name at 100 Pitt Street. Later that year he had a branch studio in Brisbane managed by John Watson .
The walls of Glaister’s Sydney studio were covered with hundreds of portraits and views, including photographs of Rome and Paris. They impressed the local newspapers. 'Having recently paid a visit to Mr. Glaister’s American and Australian Portrait Gallery, next door to the Victoria Theatre, we must pronounce it as the most complete and best arranged studio for taking likenesses in the photographic style, we have yet seen in Sydney’, the People’s Advocate reported on 5 January 1856. In an advertising brochure produced that year, Glaister advised his clients on dress:
Dark dresses of any material, rare velvet, are preferable for Ladies and Children…figured dresses, with strong contrasts take well; dresses with much lustre take brighter than those with none… Bonnets seldom should be worn, as they shade the face… A figured shawl or mantilla gives a pleasing effect to the picture. For Gentlemen, gloves should always be omitted; dark vests, scarfs, or handkerchief, are preferable.
Glaister was exceptional in advertising that his photographs were expensive, but, he added, they would never fade (a very real problem at the time). He produced images by a variety of processes, from daguerreotypes to enamelled ambrotypes, tintypes, and paper processes including cartes-de-visite, e.g hand-coloured stereoscopic daguerreotype portrait of Professor John Smith c.1855 (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery). He claimed to have been the first to introduce the stereographic photograph into any of the Australian colonies, but it is now believed that others, particularly Douglas Kilburn in Hobart Town, preceded him.
Glaister certainly kept closely in touch with the latest photographic inventions in both Europe and the United States. In 1857 the Sydney Magazine of Science and Art commented that his photographic portraits were outstanding, particularly for their size which, although ambrotypes, were up to 17 × 22 inches (43 × 56 cm) in dimension. A portrait of Rev. W. Cuthbertson, the writer stated, surpassed 'all that we ever saw in portraiture’, adding that the magazine had been assured 'that the London photographers are quite eclipsed by our Sydney practitioners’, the rays of the antipodean sun being considered especially beneficial for all aspects of the photographic process. Four oval ambrotypes of children from the Cape family are in National Library of Australia. An ambrotype of James Johnson, survivor of the wreck of the Dunbar 1857 is in Dixson Galleries; another of Mrs Jane Day and her daughters, Jane, Mary and Eliza, 1859, is held by the Society of Australian Genealogists, Sydney. The National Gallery of Australia holds a hand-coloured ambrotype of the Moore family (c.1860).
Late in 1858 at his Excelsior Photographic Gallery Glaister introduced to the Australian colonies the melainotype (tintype) and the hallotype (named after the inventor, J. Bishop Hall of New York). His picture gallery was praised in the Sydney Morning Herald of 13 May 1859, which mentioned that it included 'portraits of most of the celebrities of our good city, many of which are nearly life size, in what is called hallotype, or oil-coloured paintings; his ivory and crayon collodiotypes are also exquisite productions’. Glaister was advertising prints on opal glass, medallion cameo cards and 'the new DIAMONDCAMEO-CARDS, one to five Views of the face on one card, in white, pink or mauve’ in 1866, two years after the opaltype had been invented in Europe. He sold photographic material and equipment, and in 1862 added lessons for amateurs to his services.
In March 1861 the Sydney Morning Herald listed Glaister as among the photographers who had shown work at the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts exhibition in February, although his name does not appear in the catalogue (photographs were often listed under the names of their owners). In November the newspaper reported that a Glaister ambrotype 'of the aquatic champion, Richard Green’ was to be included in the New South Wales Court at the 1862 London International Exhibition.
In June 1862 Glaister (as he had done sporadically since March 1859) again reminded the public who, he claimed, often mistakenly went to nearby photographers, that his address was 247 Pitt Street. Later that year he moved to 253 Pitt Street, from which address he advertised on 15 November that his new Excelsior Photographic Gallery permitted him to take photographs of 'babies from any age instantaneously’ because it had been 'erected and built to an entirely new plan, different to any other in New South Wales’. In November 1863 he offered three lessons in photography for a shilling. He had two important group portraits mentioned in the press in 1862, the first in January when he photographed some 200 guests at Mr W.W. Buckland’s picnic on the eastern side of the Steyne Hotel in Manly and the second in July when he photographed a group of Maori warriors 'in their picturesque habiliments’ in the garden of the Metropolitan Hotel.
He also produced original photographs for books and albums. Robert Holden mentions that Glaister’s photograph of Nathaniel Pidgeon was engraved by W.G. Mason for Pidgeon’s biography in 1864 and that Glaister apparently re-photographed four cartes-de-visite portraits taken by Milligan Brothers onto one photographic leaf to be inserted into the expensive version of A Complete Report of the Trial in the Alleged Murder Case of the Late Henry Kinder (Sydney c.1866). In 1865 the Herald described in detail his album of about fifty portraits of ministers of the New South Wales Presbyterian Church, published by Sherriff & Downing.
Glaister’s hobbies included shooting and horticulture. He won a rifle match against Sergeant Reynolds, musketry instructor to the 12th Regiment, in November 1861. In November 1866 'Mr. T.S. Glaister exhibited a seedling fuchsia, proposed to be named the Milson’s Point Beauty’, at a monthly meeting of the Horticultural Society where he was a regular exhibitor. Glaister was still at his Pitt Street studio in 1870, but after a fire totally destroyed the building in November his name does not appear again in Sydney directories. He presumably went back to the United States. The Glaister who arrived from the United States in 1875 and went into partnership with D.F. Metcalfe, Thomas Glaister’s stepson and former employee, was T.S.M. Glaister, his son.