Hugh Stewart was born in New Zealand and grew up on a farm. He displayed no interest in farming, and fairly smartly left for Europe. It was while residing in a notorious London squat in the early 1980s that he picked up a camera and started taking portraits of his friends. He returned, via a stint New York, to the Southern Hemisphere. Without motivation to work on the Farm he headed for Sydney. It was here, faced with the prospect of actually having to work, he put together a portfolio and received his first assignment, (for Australian Vogue). This led to further commissions for magazines and advertising agencies. Encouraged, he returned to London and New York where he lived until 2006. He now lives in Sydney with his wife and three children but continues to work between Australia, the US and occasionally Europe.

In his time he has worked for I-D, The Face, British, Australian, French and American Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel and Leisure, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Sony, HBO, Microsoft, Levis, J. Crew, Singapore Airlines, Emirates airlines, Australian Tourism, Sydney Theatre Company, MasterCard and has photographed two Chanel No.5 campaigns.

He has photographed amongst others Johnny Cash, Michael Caine, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Paul Newman, Ed Harris, Kenneth Branagh, Naomi Watts, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Catherine Deneuve, Clint Eastwood, Julian Schnabel, Rod Stewart, Sir John Mills, Sir Ian McKellen, John Updike, Leonardo Dicaprio, Bill Nighy,David Hare, Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett , Robert Redford, Emma Thompson, The Duchess of Devonshire and five Australian Prime Ministers.
His photographs have been hung in the National Portrait Gallery in London and in Canberra.

He has completed a book for the UK publisher Hardy Grant in collaboration with Miv Watts. The Maverick Soul. This is available around the world and is now in its second printing. 

More recently he has been directing TV Commercials and short internet content pieces. He just completed a film for ACON encouraging regular AIDS testing, a film for Facs on Consent, another for the Sydney Dance Company and four films for Breastscreen, interviewing survivors of Breast Cancer.