Our Tenth Anniversary

Ten years ago we started blogging about Tasmanian photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923). We look forward to another two years at least as the project draws closer to completion. Contributions and donations are most welcome, and many thanks for your involvement.… More Our Tenth Anniversary

Prisoner William KELLOW 1872

This carte-de-visite of William Kellow, one of the extant hundreds of Tasmanian prisoners taken in the 1870s and printed in an oval mount, is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart. It was originally held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with another three hundred or more 1870s mugshots taken at the Hobart Gaol by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin which were acquired by the QVMAG as part of the bequest from the estate of John Watt Beattie in the 1930s. When this cdv, along with 55 more now at the TMAG, were removed from Beattie’s collection and taken down to Port Arthur for an exhibition in 1983, it was not returned to the QVMAG. It was deposited instead at the TMAG . The QVMAG list (2005) showed a total of 199 mugshots, but only 72 were physically held at the QVMAG when the list was devised. A total of 127 mugshots were missing by 2005. This carte-de-visite of William KELLOW is one of those listed as missing, number 143.… More Prisoner William KELLOW 1872

Prisoner John POPE 1881

The verso gives no indication of the name of the prisoner, but from the inscribed details, this prisoner fits the physical description of John Pope, the ship on which he arrived in Tasmania, the sentence served of 2 years, and discharged free with conditions (FC). This photograph was not reprinted by John Watt Beattie from Nevin’s original negative, or from Nevin’s duplicates of his own cdv produced for gaol records from his single sitting with the prisoner. Its verso shows it was removed from paper, probably the prisoner’s criminal record sheet. Many of the later Hobart Gaol records books dating from the mid 1880s retain the prisoner’s mugshot(s) intact (held at the Archives Office Tasmania), but the earlier 1870s mugshots have survived mostly only as loose duplicates, so this loose carte is unusual in that respect. This photograph’s late date of production, 1881-83, is possibly one reason it appears to be an original prisoner identification photograph by Nevin, typical of his commercial posing and printing in an oval cdv mount.… More Prisoner John POPE 1881

Miscarriage of justice: the case of John MAYNE 1874

Thirty-three year old John Mayne was a Member of the Table Cape Road Trust when he was wrongfully convicted for rape in January 1874. A sentence of death was recorded which was remitted to 15 years. He was released 10 months later, in December 1874 after protracted protests in the press and several juror capitulations, the same jurors who had initially returned a verdict of guilty after two hours’ deliberation at the trial (13 January 1874), a case strongly defended by John Mayne’s barrister R. Byron Miller. Thomas Nevin photographed John Mayne on arrival at the Hobart Gaol from the Supreme Court, Launceston, in February 1874 before Mayne was sent to the Port Arthur prison, from where he was discharged as “Free.” The release was effected by barrister R. Byron Miller and Attorney-General W. R. Giblin, two key members of the legal fraternity along with John Woodcock Graves jnr, whose endorsement of Thomas J. Nevin as government contractor for the provision of prisoner identification photographs was effected in 1872 and extended through to the late 1880s. Thomas Nevin also provided portraits of these lawyers, including members of their respective families.… More Miscarriage of justice: the case of John MAYNE 1874

Elizabeth Bayley at Runnymede, New Town 1874-1875

Captain James Bayley’s first marriage to Emma Elizabeth Butchard, daughter of Captain Tom Butchard, on December 30th 1856 ended at her death ten years later, on 4th December 1866. She died of pulmonary consumption, aged 27 yrs at Battery Point. Witnesses at the marriage were his brother-in-law Alexander McGregor and his brother Charles Bayley. Her daughter Harriet Louisa Bayley, named after the Bayley brothers’ sister, was motherless at just 5 years old. Her widowed father took her to England and when they returned on the Harriet McGregor in 1872, he was accompanied by a prospective new wife and stepmother to Harriet, his distant relative Miss Elizabeth Bayley.… More Elizabeth Bayley at Runnymede, New Town 1874-1875

On board the Harriet McGregor 1871-1880

The woman holding a toddler in this image is sitting equidistant between the man seated at centre and the man on extreme left. Because of Sprod’s caption, and conventions of reading images from left to right, one would assume that she is the wife of the man at extreme left because both are gazing towards some person or event outside the frame, unlike the crew members who all faced the camera at the point of capture. Or so it would seem to the viewer of the print, but what if the negative was printed from the obverse? The tenor of interpersonal relationships between the people in the image and its context would acquire new and possibly more historically accurate meanings.… More On board the Harriet McGregor 1871-1880

Thomas Nevin’s glass plates of prisoners 1870s

One example of excessive damage to the original glass plate is evident in this print taken from the negative of Nevin’s only sitting with prisoner Peter Killeen in the week preceding the 20th January, 1875, when Killeen was discharged from the Hobart Gaol. He was given a life sentence for assault and robbery in 1856, and when discharged in 1875 with a ticket-of-leave, he was 64 yrs old. He subsequently re-offended, was sentenced to a further 6 weeks and discharged again on 29 September 1875. Peter Killeen offended again within six months of discharge. He was given a sentence of seven (7) years for larceny at the Supreme Court Hobart on 8th March, 1876, sent to the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on 6th April, 1876, and transferred back to the Hobart Gaol on 17th April, 1877. Peter Killeen died from senile decay, aged 76 yrs, as a Prisoner of the Crown at the Hobart Gaol on 27th June, 1889. See originals of these records here.

The only image, whether extant as duplicates of the carte-de-visite or negative prints surviving from Peter Killeen’s criminal sentences is the one taken by Thomas Nevin at his single sitting with the prisoner in January 1875. The scratched condition of the glass plate by the time of Killeen’s death in 1889 at the Hobart Gaol is evidence of repeated use, the print showing even more wear and tear than the other 39 prints used by Beattie for the line-up of 40 on his three panels created in 1915.… More Thomas Nevin’s glass plates of prisoners 1870s

The Glenorchy Landslip 1872

Thomas Nevin was married and a first-time father by June 4th, 1872 when heavy rains and the great landslide at Glenorchy destroyed houses, farms, businesses and streets and tore boulders and vegetation from the slopes of Mount Wellington. He was living at his city studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart with his wife Elizabeth Rachel Day and their new-born daughter May (Mary Florence) who was born just a fortnight earlier on the 19th May 1872 (she died to the day exactly 83 yrs later, on 4th June 1955). That Tuesday night of the great flood in Glenorchy, photographic stock at Nevin’s old studio in nearby New Town was probably saturated by the heavy rain, if water damage on some of his extant photographs taken a few months earlier in January 1872 at Adventure Bay, is any indication. But his anxieties would have been far greater concerning his parents living in the cottage his father had built at Kangaroo Valley on land above the Lady Franklin Museum, in the northern foothills of Mount Wellington.… More The Glenorchy Landslip 1872

Prisoner William RYAN wholesale forger at the TMAG

The Press described William Ryan as “respectably attired” in September 1870 at his appearance in court on charges of forgery. They also reported that he was someone who showed deep emotions when given sentence, and someone even prone to dissembling, fakery and over-acting. Care for his personal appearance was not attentuated by a prison sentence, it seems. When Thomas J. Nevin photographed Ryan for police and prison records at the Hobart Gaol during Ryan’s six years of incarceration, the resulting photograph showed a clean shaven, nicely groomed and neatly dressed man in a prisoner’s uniform, someone with a quiet and self-contained demeanour all round.… More Prisoner William RYAN wholesale forger at the TMAG

Prisoner Cornelius GLEESON 1873 and 1916

In 1915, commercial photographer, convictaria collector and private museum operator John Watt Beattie held government commissions to boost the tourism industry with photographs of Tasmania’s two key attractions: wilderness landscapes and convict heritage. When Beattie reprinted these mugshots taken by Nevin of prisoners who were incarcerated in the 1870s – sentencing, incarceration and discharge being the only reason the police required their photograph – he labelled them with the word not common to British Edwardian usage – “convicts” – to resonate with the narratives and cliches of Tasmania’s/Van Diemen’s Land penal history prior to 1853, thereby deliberately suppressing the very ordinary reality that these men were prisoners who had been sentenced in the 1870s and 1880s. Not only were they officially designated as “prisoners” for the police, by 1871 they were the responsibility of the colonial government of Tasmania, not the British government. Yet, by 1916, when Beattie had salvaged dozens of Thomas Nevin’s original glass plate negatives and mounted cartes-de-visite of prisoners from the Hobart Gaol’s photographers’ room above the women’s laundry before it was demolished, he was reprinting them as commercial studio portraits on postcards, some even as cartes-de-visite, and some as uncut prints, labelling them “Imperial convicts” who were “photographed at Port Arthur”, none of which was historically factual.… More Prisoner Cornelius GLEESON 1873 and 1916

Hobart Gaol camera and mugshot books 1891-1901

This camera was used by the (as yet) unidentified photographer at the Hobart Gaol from the 1890s. Prior to the 1890s, prisoners were photographed by Constable John Nevin who was resident at the Gaol until his death from typhoid fever in 1891, working with his brother, commercial photographer and civil servant Thomas J. Nevin who attended the gaol and Supreme Court sessions on a weekly roster. They used two rooms above the women’s laundry as a studio. The cameras they used were wet plate, multi-lens cameras such as the 1860s American Scovill (possibly Peck) style wet-plate camera with four Darlot No.4 lenses, a Simon Wing ‘Repeating’ camera, or a stereoscopic, sliding box type, wet plate (wood, brass & glass), by Ottewill & Co, lenses manufactured by A Ross, London, England, 1860 – 1870.… More Hobart Gaol camera and mugshot books 1891-1901

Calling the shots in colour 1864-1879

Understandable, it seems, that a commercially produced photograph in 1860s-1870s Tasmania would show some sort of colouring to enhance its decorative or sentimental appeal, especially if the narrative suggested by the photograph was the civilizing of Tasmanian Aborigines who were thought to be near extinction by the last few decades of the 19th century, and that the photographic studio renowned for bold artistic experimentations with colouring was Friths on Murray Street, Hobart. Less understandable is the hand-tinting of photographs of prisoners – or “Convict Portraits” as they became known – taken expressly for police use as gaol records, unless, of course, the photographic studio engaged for the purpose of providing those mugshots was operated by Thomas J. Nevin, on Elizabeth Street, Hobart.… More Calling the shots in colour 1864-1879

A supine “selfie” by Thomas J. Nevin 1870

‘Self-portrait’ shutters were not introduced until the early 1900s so this photograph, or indeed many taken in the 1860s-70s, cannot strictly be termed a “selfie”. The supine pose in these outdoor photographs of the period, of men in particular, was due partly to the size, the focal length, width and aperture of stereo lens types available and partly because a standing rather than reclining figure in the foreground deflects the eye from a distant focal point, which in this example was one carrying a salient message about Empire and Colonial stability, the new Government House (completed 1857). The invisible photographer was present in at least five extant photographs of Thomas J. Nevin in various poses and formats, held in family collections, and there may be several more in public collections waiting to be identified, such as this one first viewed at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, November 2014.… More A supine “selfie” by Thomas J. Nevin 1870

Donation of Nevin graphica from private collector to the NLA

We are delighted to announce that a private collector and American resident has generously donated to the National Library of Australia, Canberra, a total of 45 photographs of Port Arthur convicts taken by Thomas J. Nevin, including the photograph of John Gregson, 1874 (pictured), together with original records, prison logs, prison ephemera and realia, and letters written to Thomas J. Nevin from the adiministration regarding his government commissions at both the Port Arthur penitentiary and Hobart Gaol, Tasmania during the 1870s-1880s. The donation was bequeathed from a large collection of 19th and early 20th century Pacifica, the bulk of which will remain in the United States.… More Donation of Nevin graphica from private collector to the NLA

Thomas Nevin’s VIP commission 1872

Between 31st January and 2nd February 1872, Hobart photographer Thomas J. Nevin accompanied two parties of VIPs on boat trips down the Derwent River: to Adventure Bay at Bruny Island, and to Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula. On the 31st January he took a series of photographs of a party of “colonists” which included Sir John O’Shanassy, former Premier of Victoria, on their day trip to Adventure Bay on the eastern side of Bruny Island. They travelled on board The City of Hobart, commanded by Captain John Clinch.… More Thomas Nevin’s VIP commission 1872

Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith and prisoner George Fisher

Habitual criminal George Fisher was sentenced twice – in 1875 and 1877 – at the Supreme Court Hobart by Chief Justice Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith. These records are from the Supreme Court Calendars which were used by photographer Thomas J. Nevin as an indication of which prisoners needed to be photographed around the date of sentencing. A simple tick next to the prisoner’s name showed that a bill was issued and paid, and a photograph taken.… More Chief Justice Sir Francis Smith and prisoner George Fisher

Prisoner Richard COPPING and Hobart Gaol executions

Police photographer Thomas J. Nevin took this vignette of Richard Copping for prison records at the Hobart Gaol when Copping was remanded at the Supreme Court on 23rd July 1878. Copping was executed at the Hobart Gaol on 21st October 1878 for the murder of Susannah Stacey. Copping’s medical defence, Dr Benjafield, who sought clemency for the 19 yr old youth and was mindful of public discontent with the continuance of capital punishment, asserted Copping had softening of the brain. Dr Turnley disagreed, declared the youth sane, and the execution went ahead. Turnley’s post-mortem found no disease located in Copping’s brain.… More Prisoner Richard COPPING and Hobart Gaol executions

Julia Clark must face up to academic fraud

Julia Clark must face charges of academic fraud sooner or later. She has thrown essays and articles in the face of librarians and museum workers since 2007, assuring them that her belief in the existence of a photographer attribution to Mr A. H. Boyd was hypothetically possible and so should be shared by them. So what proof has she found during the last ten years? This photograph of a prison building, which we documented at length on these blogs in 2009-2010 is all she has found in eight years since she first set her game in play. On the lower margin is a pencilled inscription in a modern hand scribbled onto an enlargement of a stereoscopic landscape view of the Port Arthur prison, taken in 1873 by Samuel Clifford and Thomas Nevin, reproduced by the Anson Brothers photographers in an album published in 1889, held at the State Library of NSW. The inscription is a fake, put there in 1984 at the instigation of Chris Long, the originator of the myth that A. H. Boyd was THE photographer of these Tasmanian prisoner mugshots instead of Nevin, the real photographer (or any other real photographer, for that matter, in Nevin’s cohort).… More Julia Clark must face up to academic fraud

Portraits of older women by Thomas Nevin 1870s

This collection of studio portraits taken by Thomas J. Nevin in the early 1870s of otherwise unidentified older women includes just one whose name is inscribed verso: Mrs Morrison. Who might she have been? A servant, a farmer, a post-mistress, some relation to Askin Morrison, ship owner, of Morrison Street, opposite Franklin Wharf, Hobart? Or Mrs Morrison, teacher of Kangaroo Point whose health had forced her to retire (Mercury, 6 December 1872). Perhaps she was Mrs Ellen Morrison, licensee of the Launceston Hotel, Brisbane St. on a visit south to Hobart? Whoever this sitter was, she appears to have worked hard all her life, no fuss or frills about it.… More Portraits of older women by Thomas Nevin 1870s

Male and female clerics and Nevin’s table 1870s

So many coincidences inform the existence of these photographs. This man and woman are both of East Asian appearance, and both wore clerical dress denoting religious affiliations when photographed in the 1870s. But were they known to each other? Both portraits were collected in Australia, despite one originating from India. And then there’s the question about the table. The male portrait poses many questions, since it was printed in Madras by the Maselawmoney Brothers photographers, but located amongst other cartes-de-visite taken by Thomas J. Nevin held in the private collection of a Tasmanian family (the Liam Peters Collection). The female portrait was acquired through a Douglas Stewart Fine Books dealers’ catalogue (Melbourne) for KLW NFC Imprint & Private Collection in 2013.… More Male and female clerics and Nevin’s table 1870s

Nevin’s women clients and their dresses 1870s

Clients of early photographers were advised to wear clothing in strong patterns to distinguish the figure from the background in the final sepia print. This is a very small selection featuring unidentified women from dozens of Thomas J. Nevin’s commercial studio portraits dated from the early to mid 1870s. These clients differed in social status, as the cut and style and fabric of their dresses suggest, in addition to their jewellery and hair-dos, but they wore their finest day dress for the occasion. Some stared directly at the photographer, others gazed towards left or right of the frame. Most are young, but extant portraits of older women who seemed to favour his services also number in the dozens. Each of these cdvs shows variations in Nevin’s studio decor, his portraiture techniques, and printed frames. Some are also hand tinted.… More Nevin’s women clients and their dresses 1870s