Thomas Mathewson, Photographer

Thomas Mathewson was an early pioneer of Queensland (and Gympie), a photographer and historian. Born in Scotland, he arrived in Australia aged around 11 years with his family and where they spent about a year at Warkon Station near Surat and then returning to Ipswich.

On becoming a photographer, Mathewson’s skills earnt him the later name as the “Father of Photography in Queensland” (1). The processes of a photographer of that time were a specialist art – using the wet plate method before the advanced processes known of modern photography.

Mathewson photographed common citizens through to people in power such as the Governor of the State. He set up studios in many locations throughout Queensland over a period of about sixty years. Early in the 1860’s he took trips with his photography equipment and tents and would tour and advertise his services. In 1868, Thomas Mathewson set up his photographic studio in Gympie on Commissioners Hill (ridge along Channon Street). He stayed until 1872.

Mathewson Store Front, Commissioner Hill, Gympie
The Gympie Times, 24 October 1868, page 1
The Gympie Times, 13 September 1871, page 2

In 1906, the Gympie School of Arts and Technical College accepted the gift from Mathewson & Co. (the company now in Brisbane), of a “handsome enlarged photo, suitably framed, of Mary Street in 1868”. This original print from glass plate negative continues to be displayed for the Gympie community, on the wall of the local history room at Gympie Library having safely travelled from the old School of Arts, then Gympie Library when it was in Nash Street (building of the now Gympie Regional Art Gallery).

The Gympie Times, 7 June 1906, page 3
Original Mathewson print displayed on wall of local history room at Gympie Library

Gympie’s first recorded flood of March 1870 was photographed by Mathewson and these photos are the first significant photographic record of a Gympie flood.

The Gympie Times, 26 March 1870, page 2

Slideshow of 1870 Flood photos by Mathewson:

Gympie Regional Libraries holds a copy of the following book in the Local History Collection for further perusal:

For further interest and reading, here are some other great articles and sites relating to Thomas Mathewson, Photographer:

Thomas Mathewson Story, provided by Alan Reeve North, grandson – published on Helensburgh Trust Heritage Scotland

Article “Northern Exposure” Thomas Mathewson – National Portrait Gallery

Australia’s Oldest Photographer, Thomas Mathewson, Australasian Photo-Review, 22 October 1912

GAGOMA – Thomas Mathewson portrait as a young man, 1880’s

Mathewson Photographers – Historical Timeline


(1) North, A. R. (2005). Thomas Mathewson: Father of Photography in Queensland, an early pioneer, photographer, historian 1842 to 1934.