Thomas J. Nevin photographed A. H. Boyd ca 1876: compare these two portraits.
Left: believed to be a portrait of A.H. Boyd taken by Charles A. Woolley ca. 1866 (Long, TMAG Collection, 1995).
Right: the same man, A. H. Boyd, taken 10 years later. Portrait by Thomas J. Nevin bearing his official government studio stamp with the Royal Arms , lion and unicorn rampant, on verso (Harrisson Collection 2005 ARR).
Is it irony, deliberation or coincidence that A.H. Boyd, who was a much despised figure in his own lifetime (1829-1891), continues to bother and aggrieve today? His reinvention by a cohort of late 20th century apologists as a photographer of Tasmanian criminals – the so-called “Port Arthur convicts 1874” – appears to be an attempt to make Boyd come up from history smelling of roses. His contemporaries, however, restrained neither their amazement at Boyd’s elevation to Commandant of the Port Arthur prison site in 1871 nor their open criticism of the man’s “unfit” character.
A. H. BOYD in 1871 …
In May 1871, when A. H. Boyd – whose career training was accountancy – took office as Commandant at Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula, 60 kms south of Hobart, Tasmania, his appointment prompted protests from sections of the Hobart population who were familiar with government reports detailing Boyd’s abuse of employees in his former position as Superintendent of the Queen’s Asylum.
One protester in letters to The Mercury, dated 12 and 15 July 1871, signed himself “OLD TASMANIAN”.
… A list of A. H. Boyd’s aggressions and his subordinates’ official grievances follows …
… and “OLD TASMANIAN” warns the reader in conclusion that the sort of nepotism at the heart of Boyd’s appointment by his brother-in-law, Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, places the people of Tasmania at risk of being ruled by a “private patrimony” ….
Read the two letters by “OLD TASMANIAN” here in full …
(A) Letter which appeared in The Mercury on 12 July 1871
(B) Letter which appeared in The Mercury on 15 July 1871
In response, the A.H. Boyd supporter who signed himself “JUS” maintained in a letter to The Mercury on 19 July 1871 that “OLD TASMANIAN” was embittered because he may well have been one of those in service who lost his perks – “perquisites” – when Boyd took office in his former position at the Queen’s Asylum .
Boyd’s obituary, written without warmth, appeared in The Mercury , 24 November 1891. There was no mention of photography because A.H. Boyd was NOT a photographer: he has never been documented in newspapers or validated in any other publicly available record of the day as either an amateur or official photographer. He was certainly NOT the photographer of three thousand (3000) and more Tasmanian prisoners between 1872-1886, the years when commercial photographer and civil servant Thomas J. Nevin, with his brother Constable John Nevin, were employed by the Municipal Police Office and Prisons Department in Hobart to photograph offenders on arrest, transfer, arraignment and release. See the list of thousands of prisoners recorded at the Hobart Gaol 1873-1892 by the website Graves of Tasmania. However, for the duration of A.H. Boyd’s public service, especially from the mid 1860s to the 1880s, The Mercury published dozens of articles and readers’ letters protesting at his bullying treatment of employees: his treatment of surveyor Piguenit was brutal and reported at length in 1873. Boyd’s promotion above others who were far more deserving such as Hobart Gaol Keeper Ringrose Atkins was due entirely to the favors extended to him by his brother-in-law (and Thomas Nevin’s family solicitor) Attorney-General W.R. Giblin.
A.H. BOYD in recent decades
How the PARASITIC Attribution Evolved
Who would have such vested interests in the reinvention of Boyd’s reputation as an “artist” whose name now appears in art photo histories purely because of this forced and unfounded association with Nevin’s mugshots? Descendants of Boyd and his brother-in-law W.R. Giblin, perhaps, hopeful of what might NOT be found in the archives and old newspapers. Not an iota of evidence has ever been cited and/or published in original documents, i.e. colonial newspapers, gazettes, police records, administration statements of duty, etc etc between 1857, Boyd’s first appointment as a civil servant, and his death in 1891 that associates him with a camera, let alone with the skills to use one in a period when considerable skill was required to take and make photographs.
The true origins of the photographic misattribution to non-photographer and Port Arthur official A.H. Boyd of Thomas J. Nevin’s police mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners 1870s-1880s lies with a reference to the art historian Margaret Glover’s article “Some Port Arthur Experiments” (1979) by Chris Long and/or Warwick Reeder (1995).
In 1979, Margaret Glover published an article about Port Arthur titled Some Port Arthur Experiments (In: T.H.R.A. Papers and Proceedings, vol. 26 no. 4, Dec. 1979, pp. 132-143).
The article deals with plants and animals and steam engines and the tenure of Commandant James Boyd (during the years 1853-1871). No mention is made of his successor Commandant A.H. Boyd, no mention is made of prison photography, and no mention is made in this article of A.H. Boyd’s niece E.M. Hall, nor to her children’s story, “The Young Explorer” (1931/1942).
Read the article by Margaret Glover in this album:
|Margaret Glover Some Port Arthur Experiments|
Yet this same article by Glover and this same children’s story by E.M. Hall have been cited since the 1980s by Chris Long as evidence that A.H. Boyd not only had his own photographic studio but photographed prisoners at Port Arthur in 1873 or was it 1874?- those who believe this “belief” cannot quite settle on the date (because it did not happen).
The unpublished children’s “tale” in typescript form was written by Edith Mary Hall nee Giblin, a daughter of Attorney-General W.R. Giblin and niece of A.H. Boyd. It is fiction, but more than a few gullible minds believe it purports to be an account of Edith Mary’s childhood visits to Port Arthur. Born in 1868, Edith Mary Hall nee Giblin, would have been no more than five years old when her uncle A.H. Boyd vacated the position of Commandant at Port Arthur in December 1873 (Walch’s Tasmanian Almanac 1873; ABD online).
The root of the notion that A.H. Boyd had any relationship with photography arose from this children’s story forwarded to the Crowther Collection at the State Library of Tasmania in 1942 by its author, Edith Hall. It was NEVER published, and exists only as a typed story, called “The Young Explorer.” Edith Hall claimed in an accompanying letter, dated 1942 and addressed to Dr Crowther that a man she calls the “Chief” in the story was her uncle A.H. Boyd, and that he was “always on the lookout for sitters“. Hopeful Chief! The imaginative Edith and her description of a room where the child protagonist was photographed (and rewarded for it) hardly accords with a set-up for police photography. The photographing of prisoners IS NOT mentioned in either the story or the letter by Edith Hall. In the context of the whole story, only three pages in length, the reference to photography is just another in a long list of imaginative fictions (many about clothes and servants) intended to give the child reader a “taste” of old Port Arthur, when both the author and her readers by 1942 were at a considerable remove in time. Boyd is not mentioned by name in the story, yet Reeder 1995 (after Long, 1995) and Clark (2010) actually cite this piece of fiction as if it contains statements of factual information. A.H. Boyd has never been documented in newspapers or validated in any government record of the day as either an amateur or official photographer.
E.M. Hall. The Young Explorer, typed script courtesy SLTAS
Photo © KLW NFC 2010 ARR
Click on images for readable version
The tale has been misinterpreted as the witness account of a five year old when the fact of the matter is that it was written by a 62 year old woman in 1930 (?), submitted to the Crowther Collection (State Library) in 1942, and probably transcribed in typescript (again) at an even later date. It is a composite of general details that concord more with the imagery in the postcards sold by Albert Sergeant in the late 1880s, and Port Arthur as the premium tourist destination of the 1920s, than with the site during its operation in 1873. In short, it is FICTION.
Chris Long and Warwick Reeder wrongly assumed that Edith Hall’s tale was cited in Glover’s article as a true account of a “Port Arthur Experiment” by A.H. Boyd. It came to be a “belief” in A.H. Boyd as some sort of amateur photographer who only needed to press a button on a camera to be included in art photo histories as an “artist” while the REAL photographers – eg. Nevin – were just the copyists of Boyd’s arty point-and-shoot prototypes (! seriously – see Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940, 1995:36).
By 1985, the “aura” Chris Long and Warwick Reeder had spun around A.H. Boyd spread to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery who then created databases of their holdings of Nevin’s prisoners’ photographs but with Boyd’s name as the “creator”. By 1995, Warwick Reeder had actually cited Glover’s 1979 article without checking either its contents or the children’s tale, and assumed that Edith Hall had written a factual account called “Reminiscences” of her childhood. Reeder thus adopted without question Chris Long’s reference to Margaret Glover that “Experiments” in photography were conducted on prisoners at Port Arthur by A.H. Boyd, when Glover made no such statements.
No such “Experiments” took place: when Nevin was contracted by tender in late 1872 to commence the photographing of offenders, a systematic approach was already in place which centred on the Hobart Town Goal (Campbell St) inmates, whether those incarcerated long-term, or whether those booked on arrest for a second offense, or whether those released with a TOL. Those employed on probation in the greater Hobart region who reoffended were photographed as a priority according to the regulations adopted from the Victorian Reform of Penal Discipline 1871. So, there was no “Experiment” in prison photography conducted at Port Arthur in 1873; the numbers of the criminal class there were negligible, and those returning to the site in subsequent years until 1876 had been photographed prior to their return to Port Arthur. By September 1873 Nevin had photographed 109 transferees from Port Arthur at the Hobart Gaol amongst a much larger number of offenders already incarcerated, in addition to those released with a TOL from the central police office at the Hobart Town Hall. Extant mugshots of these men are random estrays from this much larger corpus and prisoner population.
This cohort of Boyd “believers” (Long, Ennis, Crombie, Reeder, Clark etc), misled by public institutions such as the QVMAG and TMAG who were misled by Chris Long, and ignorant of police photographic practice have ignored the irrefutable facts about Nevin’s career with police, and have followed instead the idle imaginings of Chris Long and Reeder. They have indulged each other with vague hypotheses about the photographer of the so-called “Port Arthur convicts 1874” as so many Chinese whispers which they have circulated and published over the last few decades, and which are based on nothing more than the following: Edith Hall’s fictional tale, reprised by Long and Reeder (1995) and now Clark (2010); A.H. BOYD’S propinquity to prisoners (and everyone was living in close proximity to prisoners in the Tasmania of the 1870s); the unexamined historical cliche “Convicts+Tasmania=Port Arthur”; the aggressive commercial grab of the tourist promoters of the Port Arthur site for any interpretative (ie fictionalised) enhancement to gloss the place’s miserable past and its corrupt Commandant A.H. Boyd; and last but most significant of all, the delusional belief in status & power, Boyd’s as well as the cohort’s own carefully protected professional reputations. The deception as a modality is best termed a “PARASITIC ATTRIBUTION”, and it is always and forever will be a deception.
See this article, this article and related articles at the main weblog (list below) for further details of how, when and why these apologists have reinvented Boyd into a 19th century photographer for the 21st century. For example, this extract is the ADDENDA from the article Working with police and prisoners:
The A.H. BOYD “PHOTOGRAPH”: A CLASSIC CASE OF A PARASITIC ATTRIBUTION
In the 25 years since Chris Long first concocted the hypothesis that the Civil Commandant A.H. Boyd at the Port Arthur prison MAY HAVE taken ALL the extant photographs of Tasmanian convicts (about 300, which are nothing more than randomly salvaged estrays from police registers of more than 3000 taken by the Nevin brothers), and which are conventionally dated to 1874 (letter to Nevin family 1984; TMAG 1995), just ONE photographic item has ever been cited by Chris Long or any other commentator as evidence of any photograph taken by A.H. Boyd. It is held at the State Library of NSW. And it is still the only item cited as evidence of Boyd’s photographic work (for example, the entry for Boyd at DAA online 2008: http://www.daao.org.au/main/read/977 – note the fatuous comment – “not surprising given his job as a penal officer“).
ABOVE:This is it: this is THE “photograph” with a note in modern hand-writing on the bottom right-hand corner, a REPRINT (Beattie 1900s) of an earlier reprint (Ansons 1890s) of an enlargement of a single frame of a stereograph (Clifford and/or Nevin 1873 ca) of a building at Port Arthur.
Below this image used as the basis of the claim to be by A.H. Boyd from the album, (PXD511/ f10) is the pencilled note, ” Enlargement from a stereoscopic view by A H Boyd Esq.”
This image of a building is not a vignetted carte-de-visite photograph of a man in prison clothing, yet the curator of photographs at the State Library of NSW, Alan Davies, is proposing it is sufficient evidence to warrant a claim that A.H. Boyd was a photographer, and to extend that claim to a proposition that Boyd was also the photographer of the “bulk” of the 300 extant prisoner cartes, despite all available evidence of attribution to Thomas J. Nevin.
As recently as August 2009, Alan Davies maintained that proposition, which is founded in the cliched equation “Tasmania + convicts=Port Arthur” in an email to this weblog, extracts of which are quoted here:
… the attribution of the several hundred portraits known as the convict photographs is unresolved … please see Anson Bros Views in Tasmania Vol II. (PXD511/ f10) The view looking south from the slope opposite the Penitentiary is inscribed on the mount in a contemporary hand “Enlargement from a stereoscopic view by A H Boyd Esq.” This view also appears in Anson Bros., Settlement of Port Arthur (Penal Settlement ) Past and Present. We have two copies (PXD512 and PXD513) and the references to the Boyd image in both are PXD 512/f4 and PXD 513/f6. Comparison of this photograph with the images in the Anson/Beattie collection titled Port Arthur during occupation , leads to the conclusion that they may also be by Boyd. It would seem that like many Tasmanian photographers, Boyd s work was subsumed by the Anson/Beattie archive, leading to later problems of attribution.
(1) The reprint was acquired in 1964 by the SLNSW. The album itself was bound in red leather by the Royal Scottish Museum, owned by Capt A.W.F. Fuller in 1946, donated by his wife and accessioned by the State Library of NSW in 1964.
(2) The reprint was not part of the David Scott Mitchell Collection of Tasmaniana acquired there ca 1907, as were T.J. Nevin’s prisoner photographs (catalogued at PXB 274)
(3) Other reprints in the same volume Vol. 2 (Anson Bros Views in Tasmania Vol II. (PXD511/ f10) were attributed to J.W. Beattie, as reprints in turn of the Anson Brothers reprints in Vol 1. so this reprint was attributed to the Ansons by the SLNSW through a process of deduction in 1964 by comparison with the same image in Vol. 1 which bears the Ansons’ name. The note by the accessioning librarian puts the date of the albums at 1894, per this inscription on the inside cover of one of the volumes, also in a modern hand:
The ANSON Vols:
“The first photo gives a scene taken in 1894 & this, doubtless, is the approximate date of the whole series of photos in these 2 Vols.”
(4) The image is not an original photograph in vignetted carte-de-visite format of a man in prisoner clothing, as are the extant “convict portraits” by T.J. Nevin. It is simply NOT A PRISONER MUGSHOT.
(5) The image is of a prison building and empty streets, and the site looks decidedly unoccupied despite the title “Port Arthur during Occupation”.
(6) An identical photograph of the one above is held at the Archives office of Tasmania, dated to 1880, and unattributed.
(7) None of the other prints in this album, Vol. 2, has a similar note or additional inscription on the mount, and this single fact raises questions and suspicions as to why and when it was added. In addition, the note about Boyd is so indistinct, not even a magnifying glass renders it visible.
Can you see Boyd’s name? It could easily have been added by the SLNSW or traced over another photographer’s name, e.g. H.H. Baily Esq. See this article: Fraudulent Pretensions.
It would appear that this pencilled note underneath the image at the SLNSW was written sometime after 1992, when Joan Kerr and Geoffey Stilwell publicly refuted Chris Long’s hypothesis about Boyd in their entry on Nevin (page 568, The Dictionary of Australian Artists: painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870, (Melbourne: Oxford University Press). Someone then pencilled the note -
“Enlargement from a stereoscopic view by A H Boyd Esq.”
- to save Chris Long from looking like an idiot.
Parasitic attributions are spread by parasites. When Julia Clark submitted her student “essay” with her “belief” in the “pre-emininent historian of photography Chris Long” (no he isn’t- his derivative publication Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940, TMAG 1995, was an A-Z desktop production copied from Stilwell’s Index and Kerr’s massive Dictionary -DAA- 1992), and his A.H. Boyd hypothesis in 2007, the National Library of Australia removed Thomas J. Nevin’s name from the header of their collection of Convict Portraits, Port Arthur 1874 (http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an11590418) which was their accessioned and correct attribution since 1982, and replaced Nevin’s sole attribution with this note:
No photographer name or studio stamp appears on these photographs. It is likely that the photographer was either A.H. Boyd or Thomas J. Nevin. An essay supporting attribution to Boyd, prepared by Julia Clark, Manager Interpretations and Collections, Port Arthur Historic Site, is on file (TRIM R07/44719); copies available on request.
The National Library updated this catalogue entry in May 2010 with a reference to an article published by Clark, further abjecting Nevin’s name from their accessioned and long-standing accreditation:
No photographer name or studio stamp appears on these photographs. Formerly attributed to Thomas J. Nevin, the portraits are now considered more likely to have been taken by A.H. Boyd. See: Julia Clark. A question of attribution: Port Arthur’s convict portraits in Journal of Australian Colonial History, Vol 12, 2010, p77-97.; Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.
Clark’s article is drivel, a beggarly attempt to prop up the scaffolding of errors about A.H. Boyd through the plagiarism and abuse of materials from these Nevin weblogs, topic by topic, sentence by sentence and word for word. This dead-end anomaly about Boyd was first raised on our weblogs back in 2005. Clark has had five years to come up with factual evidence: “considered more likely… ” is not evidence, it is more evidence that there IS NO EVIDENCE. There never was an historical event where some one called A.H. Boyd photographed prisoners in Tasmania in the 1870s-1880s.
In her own words (and very few in this article ARE her own words apart from the archeological fictions), Clark states clearly that there is NO official record of A.H. Boyd taking prisoners’ photographs, yet she persists in arguing his case:
Clark, p. 90, JACHS 2010
Photo © KLW NFC 2010 ARR
Click on images for readable version
With craven dishonesty, Clark has the National Library technicians responsible for this egregious and capricious act of misattribution eating out of her hand. She firstly pushed onto them a pointless and irrelevant essay in 2007,the objective of which was to attack and discredit Nevin through his descendants, and now with this “article” which she hopes will mislead the public sufficiently into backing her “bet” on A.H. Boyd. To poor Julia Clark, the issue is all about descendants, so the question has to be asked: is she descendant from a convict, is this green-eyed resentment masking the sting of the “convict stain” which motivates her malice? Or is she just a bully, hence the Boyd fascination?
Look carefully at this excerpt from page 83 of the Journal of Australian Colonial History 2010: the Nevin descendants “make very public and strident claims” – no mention of course that these weblogs have been documenting the misattribution at various main URLS since 2005, e.g. tasmanianphotographers.blogharbor.com (moved to Google in 2006); tasmanianphotographer.blogspot.com; thomasnevin.wordpress.com; prisonerpics.blogspot.com; not to mention the extensive print based articles and citations by others across the web. Clark has gorged herself on every topic/idea put forward on these weblogs since 2005 and re-presented them as her own, with no acknowledgment other than this pathetic little cock-a-snook. Her theft of our research has put her on notice to her publisher, the JACHS, to repress the article from online distribution; to her PhD supervisor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart; and to the Director at the University of Tasmania to suspend her candidacy. The Australian Copyright Council has been aware of Clark since 2009 when we placed more and more information with finer detail onto the weblogs and became aware of exactly what she was copying and downloading. We have no article posted on the date cited above: 6 September 2009, but most of our research concerning the Mitchell Library photographs by Nevin we had placed online by August 2009, together with snippets of relevant police records, which were then extensively plagiarised by Clark for the last half of her article. Read the sidebars here for our copyright remits.
Gossip, gambling and gleaning are the cornerstone of Clark’s evidence and argument : she offers anecdotal evidence which was “gleaned” from A.H. Boyd descendants who “confidently recognise the images as his“, sufficient to lay her “bet” on A.H. Boyd.
Clark, JACHS 2010, p.89
Photo © KLW NFC 2010 ARR
Click on images for readable version
See also this critique by Tim Causer, Bentham Project, University College London.
Thomas J. Nevin and descendants are apparently one of the more recent examples in a long line of Clark’s personal targets. See this article on her MO in Hobart museums by M. Anderson. Clark’s attack on the “Georgian splendour school of history” is deeply ironic, given that this Commandant A.H. Boyd she so firmly wants to promote as the prisoners’ photographer at Port Arthur was just that – a Georgian middle-class gent revelling in the spoils of his own corruption, a renowned bully reviled by the public in his own day. In Kay Daniel’s words, Clark’s analytical method is hypocritical – it’s “the view from the Commandant’s verandah school of history” – which she prescribes while pretending solidarity with her target, whether Aborigines or convicts. Of course, “Nevin” is a name to conjure with in Australian culture: Clark has gone for the tall-poppy syndrome tactic of piggy-backing on the name while cutting down the poppy, and that raises question about her psychological stability.
As Maragaret Anderson states, Clark admitted candidly:
We may have overstated the case in our determination to act as an emetic to the genteel antiquarianism of the ‘Georgian splendour’ school of history. We probably did, but the public loved it anyway. Or most of them did. 
From M. Anderson, http://nma.gov.au/research/understanding-museums/MAnderson_2011.html
Anderson’s comments applaud Clark’s use of “strategic political support” and this is Clark ‘s MO, first and foremost, attacking at the interpersonal level, attacking the establishment (in this case the National Library’s longtime accreditation to Thomas J. Nevin) until they incorporate her.
It is NOT likely that A.H. Boyd ever held a camera, let alone produced the 300 extant prisoner mugshots for the Tasmanian Police, which are a random collection of estrays. What is true, however, is evidence of partisan and corrupt librarianship at the beck and call of Clark’s personal aspirations enveloped in tourist propaganda. In short, what we see here, in cricketing terms, is ball-tampering and a bent umpire. The A.H. Boyd misattribution has wasted the time and effort of a generation with an interest in forensic and police photography. The stupidity of Clark and the personality politics of the National Library combined only ensures further waste.
THE PARASITIC ATTRIBUTION:
- Fraudulent pretensions
- Margaret Glover and the fabrication of photohistory
- Working with police and prisoners
- The A.H. Boyd misattribution at DAAO
- About those photographic glasses 1873
- Nepotism, corruption and Port Arthur 1873
- The QVMAG, Chris Long and A.H. Boyd
- “In a New Light”: NLA Exhibition with Boyd misattribution
- Nevin’s mugshots: the transitional pose and frame
- Anne-Marie Willis & Richard Neville on the Boyd misattribution
- Three significant prisoner cartes by T. J. Nevin
- Helen Ennis’ NLA publication ‘Intersections’ 2004
- Isobel Crombie and Helen Ennis: how misattribution can persist
- Laterality: Helen Ennis & the poses in Nevin’s portraits
- A Question of Stupidity & the National Library of Australia