Hogg, Alexander Robert (1870–1939), photographer, was born 1 March 1870, elder son and eldest of the three children of David Hogg, farmer, and Mary Hogg (née Pool or Poole), of Tullywest townland, near Saintfield, Co. Down. Shortly after his birth the Hogg family moved to Ballydollaghan, Co. Down, on the outskirts of Belfast, where David Hogg was employed as a land steward.
We know nothing of Alex Hogg's education except that formal schooling did not extend beyond primary level. After school he served his time as a druggist's assistant with an uncle in York St., Belfast, and was later employed by the firm of Dobbin & Co., North St. He took up photography at an early age – his earliest surviving photograph is dated 1884 – and was for many years a highly competent amateur, winning numerous prizes. An interest in lantern slides led to his appointment in the late 1890s as lanternist for the Glasgow optical firm of Lizars, which had recently opened a branch in Belfast. In 1901, aged 30, he set up as a professional ‘photographer, lanternist, and cinematographer’ in Trinity St., Belfast, living on the premises. His studio remained there until 1921, when he removed to one in High St. On marrying (1907) Sarah Marion Houston, a nurse, he went to live in Chichester Road, off the Antrim Road. In 1934, after the death of his first wife and his marriage to Margaret Mann, Hogg moved again, to a rented house at 67 Great Victoria St., where he lived above his studio. He died there on 25 August 1939 and was buried in the city cemetery. Neither marriage produced any children.
His surviving glass plate negatives (some 5,500), along with a large collection of lantern slides and associated items, purchased from the widow of his successor in the studio, form the Hogg collection in the Ulster Museum. A representative selection from it was published in 1986.
Like his friend Robert Welch (qv), Hogg did comparatively little portrait work (though some of his subjects, such as the painter Paul Henry (qv) and the sculptor Rosamund Praeger (qv), are interesting). Instead, he earned his living from a very wide range of commissions from lawyers, architects, industrialists, hotel and shop owners, cinema owners, manufacturers of all kinds, tourist bodies and advertising firms, transport companies, artistic and scholarly organisations, hospitals, shipbuilders, and so on – covering many aspects of life and work in Belfast from the turn of the century to the late 1930s. He was fortunate to get a great deal of work, over the years, from various departments of Belfast corporation, at a time when the city fathers were expanding their activities to include such matters as public transport, educational reform, and improvements in public health. In the 1920s he was also the official photographer to Workman Clark & Co., Belfast's other shipbuilders (an important and successful firm until their collapse, though their typical products were never on the scale of Harland & Wolff's great liners). In addition to this varied practice, he produced hundreds of uncommissioned views, of excellent quality, many of which were published as postcards or as illustrations in tourist literature.
Though lacking the wide-ranging scholarly interests of Welch, Hogg was a major figure in the history of photography in the north of Ireland. He played a leading role in the creation (1925) of the Northern Ireland branch of the Professional Photographers' Association and served on the Association's national council.