There are not many extant self portraits of Tasmanian colonial photographers of the 1850s-1880. The watercolour attributed to Alfred Bock of a young gentleman is held at the State Library of Tasmania; the photographs are held in descendants’ private collections. These portraits all exhibit interesting variations in male facial hair fashions.
A fresh-faced teenager.
STATE LIBRARY of TASMANIA
[Portrait of a young gentleman]
Attributed to Alfred Bock.
Unsigned and undated.
1 drawing : pencil, pastel & watercolour on paper ; 25 x 19 cm within matt.
Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts
This watercolour, unsigned though attributed to Alfred Bock, is included in the selection because it may well represent the young Thomas Nevin while apprenticed to Alfred Bock (early 1860s). If dated to ca. 1859, it shows Thomas as a 17 year- old youth, sprouting a wispy set of mutton chops, a clean shaven chin, no moustache, and wavy hair parted slightly off-centre. These are the same facial fashions which characterise Thomas’ style in his wedding photograph, aged 28 yrs, in 1871.
The violet bowtie with white spots in this painted portrait, which is expertly executed, has resonances with hand-tinting of neck wear in several photographic portraits by Nevin – with subtle and not so subtle variations – depicting -
The first two examples are childishly executed, and were probably done by the client or client’s children, but he was certainly responsible for the hand-tinting of the convicts’ photos. See also this entry on the red and violet in Brewster’s stereoscopy.
A young stereographer, 23 years old, ca. 1865.
The studio decor differs in every respect from portraits of parents and private clientele taken at The City Photographic Establishment in the 1870s. The drape is intensely floral with large motifs; the table has a single support and a beaded bevelled edge (it’s not his table with the griffin-shaped legs); the carpet features a plain diamond pattern; his upright chair is from a dining set and behind his chair is a three-footed stand; and the painted backdrop is awash with a flowering bush and sketchy version of a balustrade. It is not the Italianate balcony with disappearing river vista of his later commercial portraits of private clientele.
Detail of above:
Thomas Nevin, mid 1860s at his studio in white gloves with a stereoscope
Thomas’ facial features are very clear. His mutton chops have thickened, he’s grown a moustache and a beard, possibly because this capture was during winter. He seems to be wearing a double layer of clothing underneath the belted waistcoat. At this close range, another facial feature becomes evident. His eyes do not align. One is turned, or one is not. He may have been in an accident, especially been affected by accidents with photochemicals, or developed a problem from excessive viewing of stereographs (which required crossing the eyes). Or it may be the pinpricking of the eyes, a common technique in early portraiture for light, or simply an effect of refraction from the camera lens as it caught his pose.
A married man and Wesleyan, July 12, 1871
Thomas Nevin and Elizabeth Rachel Day, July 12, 1871.
Wedding photograph, carte-de-visite. Verso is blank.
From © The Nevin Family Collections 2005-2009 ARR.
Thomas Nevin married Elizabeth Rachel Day on July 12, 1871, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart Tasmania, in his finest suit and top hat.
Thomas’ mutton chops are wispy again, suggesting he periodically shaved them off, but he has kept the moustache, reverted to the clean-shaven chin, and brushed the wavy hair straight back.
Photographed in his studio at The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, possibly by his younger brother Jack Nevin (1852-1891). The verso is blank.
A young father and contractor
This is the standard and conventional vignette format used by prisons photographers in Victoria and NSW. Thomas Nevin used it from 1873-ca 1879 for printing identification photos of prisoners from his glass negatives. The small carte was pasted to the prisoner’s record sheet. Other contractual work was advertising for Samuel Page whose coachline was contracted to the colonial government for Royal Mail deliveries, and the carriage of prisoners in custody.
Thomas has lightly tinted the cheeks in this self-portrait. The mutton chops are gone, and the beard (which was red) is longer. The off-centre part and wavy hair recall the style of the early watercolour image ca 1859.
The verso carries the “T. Nevin late A. Bock” stamp with kangaroo design (we have watermarked the front of this image with it).
The civil servant and prisons photographer
Thomas Nevin ca. 1876
Full-length standing portrait with hat and table stereoscope
From © The Private Collection of Denis Shelverton 2007 -2009 ARR
Thomas Nevin ca 1876 shows a more mature photographer with some impressive equipment. This full-length portrait was taken in his studio at the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town, probably by his younger brother Jack (John) Nevin. Visible in this portrait is the familiar table with the griffin-shaped legs. On the table is a large stereoscope with the stereograph holder open.
The variations of facial hair continue, this time Thomas has grown a denser set of mutton chops, shaved off the beard and kept the moustache. By 1878 he was working in the Office of Inspector of Police within the Municipal Police Offices at the Town Hall where he was appointed keeper in 1876. Scanned from a copy pasted into his son George Nevin’s scrapbook. Verso not available.
Civil servant and police agent
The Nevin Group Portrait ca. 1880
Reprinted on newspaper ca 1900 (?)
From © The Nevin Family Collections 2009 ARR
This is the lastest photograph to surface so far from the extended family collections. There could be later images of Thomas Nevin, his family and friends among his descendants’ collections. Again, the clean-shaven chin, the mutton chops and moustache appear to be his style of choice.
See this summary of the Key chronological events in Thomas J. Nevin’s life 1842-1923