Scottish colonial male orphan who set up a photography business after being taught by an Ipswich reverend. By the time he died, his horse driven carriage had left tracks from SA to Qld, and he had founded a legacy of photography studios run by his sons.
professional photographer, was born in Helensburgh, Dumbartonshire, Scotland. He was orphaned in early adolescence, shortly after his family migrated to Moreton Bay, Queensland, in 1853. For a few months in 1854 he attended the Anglican Church School in Nicholas Street, Ipswich run by Alfred Hazelton , then learnt photography from Rev. Theophilus Beazeley in evening self-improvement classes at Ipswich. After practising as an amateur Mathewson set up as a professional photographer at Toowoomba in 1861. In 1865 he worked his way through the Darling Downs, via Roma, St George and the Gwydir River, reaching Sydney by late 1867. Travelling northwards, he took photographs at Gympie (1868-72), Rockhampton, Bowen, Charters Towers and Townsville.
Thomas’s brother Peter joined him in 1876 and the firm became Mathewson & Co. until the 1890s, operating mainly from Queen Street, Brisbane, but making regular tours to country towns and rural districts. Thomas, the senior partner, was said in 1894 to have made a speciality 'of children and other pets’. Peter set up on his own in the late 1890s and his son Thomas eventually took over the firm, so the name Thomas Mathewson was associated with two separate Brisbane photographic studios. Thomas senior eventually renamed his business the Regent Studios, where he was assisted by his son Jack. Thomas junior called his father’s business the Austral Studio when he inherited it.
Thomas Mathewson senior died in Brisbane on 12 May 1934, aged ninety-three. Recognised as the 'Grand Old Man’ of Queensland photography, he was said in 1894 to have left the 'tracks of his tripod’ in every inhabited place from the Great Barrier Reef to the South Australian border. Before his death he wrote his recollections, depicting the excitement, initiative and hardships of an early cameraman as he trekked through the countryside 'fully equipped with tents, one in which to photograph sitters, and another in which to live, together with all the needful paraphernalia of wet-plate photography, all packed in a two-wheeled vehicle drawn by two horses’.