Jack Hickson was a dyed-in-the-wool newspaper photographer. He got his start at Sam Hood's studio and worked on the Telegraph and Australian Women's Weekly for many years. He established a reputation as the intrepid young photographer who had trudged through the McPherson Ranges to get exclusive photographs of the Stinson Plane Crash in 1937. His last job before joining the The Agency was at Woman's Day.
In 1953, along with fellow former newspaper photographers Norm Danvers and Alton ‘Curly’ Fraser, Hickson established a photographic studio in George St, Sydney known as The Agency. The Agency prospered in the advertising and public relations boom of the 1950s. All three partners had extensive contacts in the photographic industry and they took on other press photographers as needed. Within two years they moved to new premises on the fourth floor of 44 Pitt Street. The total number of photographers employed by the Agency, sometimes on a casual basis, sometimes for longer periods, was about 95. Their commercial clientele expanded through the late 1950s and early 1960s and contracts to supply photographs for New Zealand and country newspapers kept them busy.
The 1960s recession and changing commercial environment took its toll on the business. Norm Danvers left to open his own commercial studio in 1963. The business struggled through the 1970s and 80s with a reduced number of clients and moved through a series of premises in Sydney.
When an ill Jack Hickson retired in 1989, he donated the entire Agency collection of 48,000 large format negatives to the State Library of New South Wales. He died the following year.
The Noel Butlin Archives holds a number of examples of Hickson’s commercial work for the department store McDowell’s Ltd. McDowell’s commenced operating in George St, Sydney in 1889, and by the 1960s the business employed 1200 employees and had opened stores in Hornsby, Dee Why and Caringbah. The business was taken over by rival department store Walton’s in 1972.