|In 1904, shortly after ending
his involvement in the Bexhill photographic firm of Bodom & Hawley,
Hjalmar Bodom entered into an agreement with George Michael,
proprietor of the photographic company of Wilson and Co., to manage
one of the firm's
studios at Singapore in South East Asia. Wilson & Co.,
which had a number outlets in Singapore, was one of the leading
photographic firms in the Malaya Peninsula. The firm of Wilson and Co.
had established a photographic studio in Barrack Road, Singapore,
in the Straits Settlements in the early 1900s and later
acquired the studio of G. R. Lambert & Co. at 17b Orchard Road,
Singapore. In addition to studio portraits, the firm of Wilson &
Co. also produced hundreds of photographic views of Singapore and Malaya
in the popular postcard format.
Photographer for Wilson & Co. of
After arriving in the Straits Settlements
(either at the end of 1904 or during the early months of 1905),
Hjalmar Bodom became the manager of one of Wilson & Co.'s
photographic studios in Singapore. (There is a suggestion that Bodom
operated from a photographer's shop at the Hotel de l'Europe on
Singapore's Esplanade). Initially, Hjalmar Bodom
was required to operate the Wilson & Co. portrait studio for "seven
days in the week", but after 4 months he stopped working on Sundays. Bodom's
adoption of a six-day working week upset his employer, Mr. George Michael,
the proprietor Wilson and Co.'s photographic studios. Mr Michael later
complained that "through closing on Sundays, he (Bodom) had lost
the custom of several ladies who had gone into a rival firm's studio
opposite". Relations between
Hjalmar Bodom and his employer became strained, Bodom complaining
that Wilson & Co. owed him wages and commission, plus the cost of a sea
voyage between Europe and Singapore. The agreement between Hjalmar Bodom
and Wilson & Co. came to an end after 4 years. Towards the end of 1908,
Hjalmar Bodom set off for Penang, an island off the
north-west coast of Malaya, where he established his own photographic
studio. Believing he had been badly treated by Wilson & Co.,
Hjalmar Bodom took legal action against his former employer,
putting in a claim for $946.13, representing outstanding wages and unpaid
commission, plus the cost of a second-class passage between Singapore and
Europe. During his testimony to the court in Singapore, Bodom remarked that,
if he left Singapore and returned to Europe, he would have "no difficulty"
in finding a situation as a photographer, adding "I can go tomorrow into
a business in England where I had been before".
[LEFT] "PHOTOGRAPHERS IN COURT", an article published
in The Straits Times on 10 th March 1909, reporting on
Hjalmar Bodom's legal action against his former employer, Mr
George Michael, the owner of the
photographic company Wilson and Co. of Singapore.
Bodom was claiming unpaid wages and commission, plus the
cost of a sea voyage between Singapore and Europe. This 1909
article describes Hjalmar Bodom as "a photographer, now
Hjalmar Bodom was unsuccessful in his legal action against his
former employer. Under the headline "Failure of Claim Against Owner of
Wilson and Co.", The Straits Times reported on 11th March
1909, that Mr Justice Sercombe Smith reached the judgement that Bodom's
claim "failed on every point", giving "a verdict for the defendant
(Mr George Michael of Wilson and Co.), with costs".
Photographer in Penang, Malaya
In 1908, Hjalmar Bodom had established
a photographic portrait studio on Penang, an island situated off the
north-west coast of the Malay Peninsula. It is reported that Bodom
was the owner of a photographic studio at Northam House, 15
Northam Road, Penang. In addition to studio
portrait work, Hjalmar Bodom also took group portraits on location. [ An article in
the Singapore Free Press published on 24th December 1913, reported on
a "children's Christmas party" held at England House, Penang, the residence
of Mr and Mrs Robert Young. The children had been invited to attend the
party in "fancy dress". On arrival, the children who wore fancy dress
costume, were "grouped for a photograph, taken by Mr Bodom."].
Hjalmar Bodom, like many other European photographers in the
region, also produced a large number of picture postcards featuring local
views. We know that H. Bodom published a series of postcards under the
heading of "Views of Penang Island Straits Settlements" before the
end of the First World War.
[LEFT] A view of Northam Road, Penang, where Hjalmar Bodom
worked as a photographer between 1908 and 1919. Photographic views of
Penang produced by Hjalmar Bodom during this period are highly prized by
collectors of early Malaysian postcards. Records indicate that Hjalmar Bodom
was based at the Northam
House Photographic Studio at 15 Northam Road, Penang.
Photographer in Java
By 1920, Hjalmar Bodom had left
Penang and had set up a photographic studio in the city of Bandoeng
(Bandung) on the Dutch-controlled island of Java. On 9th October
Hjalmar Bodom placed the following notice in
The Sydney Morning Herald:
|PHOTOGRAPHY - Wanted, for
Java, by English firm,
first-class RETOUCHER, also good Bromide
Printer. Commencing salaries 250 gulden (£21) per month. Letters, with
full particulars, and specimens
of own work, to H. BODOM, Bandoeng, Java.
Hjalmar Bodom was based in the city of Bandoeng (Bandung)
for the next 15 years or so. Surrounded by large tea plantations and blessed
by a cooler climate, Bandoeng became a particularly popular resort
for wealthy European planters and their families. Equipped with high-class
hotels, cafes, restaurants, stylish shops, a ballroom and a theatre,
Bandoeng attracted rich businessmen and ladies with private incomes
searching for luxury goods and entertainment. The Dutch colonial government
developed the city during the 1920s and by the early 1930s Bandoeng
was known as "Parijs van Java" (The Paris of Java).
[RIGHT] A notice published in The Straits Times on 14th
March 1935, advertising the sale of Hjalmar Bodom's photographic
studio at Naripanweg No.3, Bandoeng (Bandung),
Java. The advert states that the studio - described as "the
old established and well known Photographic Studio of H. Bodom,
situated in the lovely town of Bandoeng (Bandung) - had
been put up for sale because the "owner wishes to retire".
Born in Norway around 1866, Hjalmar Bodom had been working
as a photographer for over 36 years and would have been
approaching his 70th birthday when he announced his intention to
retire in 1935.
Hjalmar Bodom presumably ended his photographic career on the
island of Java in the mid 1930s. In March 1935, Hjalmar Bodom
put up for sale, "for cash", his photographic studio in Bandoeng
(Bandung), Java. A newspaper advertisement published on 14th
March 1935 stated "the old established and well known Photographic Studio
of H. Bodom" had been put up for sale because the "owner wishes to
Hjalmar Bodom did not make a quick sale as he listed as the
proprietor of the "Kunst Atelier" (Art Studio) photographic
studio at Naripanweg 3, Bandoeng (Bandung), Java in the
Bandoeng Telephone Directory published in January 1936.
[ABOVE] The trade plate of H. Bodom, photographer of
Penang, Malaya. The photographer Hjalmar Bodom arrived
in the Far East in 1904 or 1905 to take up employment in Wilson &
Co's studio in Singapore. By 1909, Bodom had moved on to
the Malayan island of Penang.
[RIGHT] A map showing the locations of Hjalmar Bodom's
photographic studios in Singapore, Penang and
Bandung. After 4 years in Singapore, Bodom
established his own studio in Penang. By the 1920s Hjalmar
Bodom was working as a photographer in Bandung, Java.
[ABOVE] A map showing the locations of Hjalmar Bodom's photographic
studios in South-East Asia. After periods in Singapore and
Penang, Bodom eventually settled in the city of Bandung (Bandoeng) on
the island of Java.
[ABOVE] A photograph of the Grand Hotel de'l Europe on
Singapore's Esplanade photographed before 1914. A newspaper report
published in March 1909 indicates that Hjalmar Bodom managed a
photographic studio and shop attached to this luxurious hotel for the
firm of Wilson and Co. between 1905 and 1908.
of Grand Hotel de l'Europe: located along the Esplanad
[ABOVE] An advertisement placed in The Straits Times in 1918
by Hjalmar Bodom, photographic artist of Penang.
Bodom was seeking a photographic bromide printer to work in his
Penang studio. (The Straits Times, 26th September,
[ABOVE] Hjalmar Bodom listed as the owner of a
photographic studio at Naripanweg 3, Bandoeng (Bandung),
Java, under the heading of "Fotografische Ateliers"
in the 1936 edition of the Bandoeng Telephone Directory.
[LEFT] A view of a beach on the island of Java, photographed and
issued as a picture postcard by Hjalmar Bodom of Bandoeng,
photographer Hjalmar Bodom published local views as picture
postcards in Penang and later from his studio in
Bandoeng (Bandung), Java.
[ABOVE] A map of the Malay Archipelago in South-East Asia
showing the locations of Hjalmar Bodom's photographic studios in
Penang, Malaya and the city of Bandung (Bandoeng)
on the island of Java. Hjalmar Bodom was active as a
photographer in the British controlled islands of Singapore and
Penang. By 1920, Bodom had established a photographic studio in
the Dutch East Indies, opening premises in the Dutch controlled city
of Bandoeg (Bandung) on the island of Java.