Vale: Dorothy Hallam

Dorothy with her 16mm Bolex camera.

Image by David Brill AM ACS, 2022.

Dorothy Hallam, who passed away last week, may not be a household name in Cinematography circles.

Still, the legacy this Honorary Member of the ACS has created for cinematography will be remembered.

As ABC’s freelance cinematographer on the Tasman Peninsula, she was the first female news cinematographer in Australia.

“I was always interested in Photography from when I was very, very young, and it just went on from there” Dorothy told ABC News in Tasmania in 2021.

Just shy of her 98th birthday, Dorothy filmed 176 stories over 22 years on her 16mm Bolex film camera.

In issue 92 of the AC Magazine she told David Brill AM ACS and Kevin Hudson ACS, “it was a hobby of mine before I filmed for the ABC. It was very good to be able to film news as well.”

She bought her camera from a staff ABC Cinematographer Warwick Curtis (Tasmanian branch President Peter Curtis ACS father). She also learnt how to use a light meter from a young Neil Davis.

Her 176 stories included filming life on the Tasman Peninsula, such as the resupply at Tasman Island lighthouse, town shows, local industry and farming.

Another of her stories was of a missing boy. While filming the search that involved police and volunteers, she came across James O’Neil. Unbeknownst to her, he knew exactly where this young child was and, to this day, remains Tasmania’s longest-serving prisoner.

David Brill AM ACS was employed at ABC and remembered the quality of the work that Dorothy filmed.

“When I started working at ABC in 1965, I had heard of Dorothy down on the peninsula doing these wonderful sidebar stories and remember how beautifully shot they were. In fact, I’ve seen her rushes, and she certainly has the gift of storytelling with a camera, and technically spot on,” David said.

David developed a strong bond with Dorothy and her family. He often visited her home near Port Arthur, where she had a reputation for all those who visited with her generous hospitality.

“Dorothy always made wonderful sandwiches, tea and coffee, and now and then a cake.”

In 2018 Bonnie Elliot ACS presented Dorothy with an Honorary membership certificate, which was pride of place in her lounge room.

A grant for the Tasman Peninsula’s Nubeena Historical Society and historian James Parker has enabled a search and digitisation of the ABC’s archives of many of her films that documented the local region so well.

Whilst we may remember Dorothy for her filmmaking and being the first female news cinematographer, her local community will remember her storytelling for years to come as they look back.

ABC TV News Story

The ABC Backstory article on Dorothy Hallam »

Written by Adam Reibel with assistance by David Brill AM ACS