Recto & verso of cdv of prisoner John FITZPATRICK

John Fitzpatrick, alias John Fitzgerald, was convicted in the Supreme Court Launceston on 13th January 1870, sentenced to 5 years for feloniously receiving. He was transferred to the Hobart Gaol because of the length of his sentence, and photographed on arrival and discharge (1872/1876) at the Hobart Gaol by Thomas Nevin, together with a number of other prisoners including John Appleby.

Thomas J. Nevin’s photograph of Port Arthur convict John Fitzpatrick 1872/1876
National Library of Australia catalogue at 17 July 2007
Location: PIC P1029/11 LOC Album 935
Photographer: Nevin, Thomas J., 1842-ca. 1922 [sic, 1923].
John Fitzpatrick, per Ld. [i.e. Lord] Lyndock 2, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.3 x 5.6 cm.

Numbered 218: verso copy courtesy of NLA Pictorial, 1996
NB: This prisoner was transported on the ship Lord Auckland, not Lord Lyndock.

POLICE RECORDS for John Fitzpatrick

John Fitzpatrick aka Fitzgerald was photographed by T. J. Nevin on the prisoner’s incarceration and arraignment 1870/1872, and again on discharge, 16th February 1876, at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall. This is the later photograph,

The “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” inscription on the verso of Tasmanian convict cartes-de-visite appears uniformly on many prisoner photographs originally taken by Thomas Nevin which he printed in oval mounts. The handwritten inscription and the date “1874” was written by an archivist ca. 1916, probably by John Watt Beattie who salvaged these photographs from the Hobart Gaol, but it has misled researchers into believing in the existence of some local “Port Arthur photographer” of prisoners at Port Arthur in 1874 (Long, 1995; Reeder, 1995). Thomas Nevin visited the site on several occasions in the company of other photographers – his partners and mentors Alfred Bock, Samuel Clifford – from the mid 1860s to the mid 1870s, and by 1874 he was attending to police business there, checking transportation records against police record aliases. He was there at Port Arthur on business when the birth of his son Thomas was registered in Hobart in May 1874 by his father-in-law, Captain James Day.

These commentators have ignored the body of work produced by Thomas Nevin and his partner Samuel Clifford, principally the stereographs taken around Port Arthur in 1873-4 but also portraits of officials and the occasional prisoner. They have grasped at a sentence in a children’s tale written by a niece of  the prison Commandant A.H. Boyd in the 1930s and treated her piece of fiction as a factual and historic document, enough to ascribe Boyd with a photographer accreditation of these extant mugshots. The story mentions neither Boyd by name nor the photographing of prisoners. Logically, they should have engaged in researching the legal history of the period, the documents associated with police photography and the work of Thomas Nevin in Hobart during the period when most of the extant cartes were taken, 1871-1877. In short, they should have paid closer attention to Thomas Nevin and his brother Constable John Nevin who was his assistant at the Hobart Gaol and to his long-standing studio practice with Samuel Clifford.

The mess of attribution which originated with Chris Long in 1984 is a direct result of this displacement and deflection of focus from the professional prison photographer and the facts of judicial photography. Aesthetic judgements by art-trained researchers took the place of commonsense adducement in the 1990s, and persist to the present.

Thomas Nevin produced at least six duplicates from his negative of a single sitting with each prisoner. Some were pasted to the prisoner’s gaol records, warrants etc, others were used for police registers and rogues galleries, and more were used to circulate to regional police offices. This example of the cdv of John Fitzpatrick alias Fitzgerald is typical of the particular numbering and inscriptions on the recto and verso of so many of the Tasmanian convict photographs in oval mounts now held in public institutions. But unlike many other Tasmanian prisoner photographs in the NLA collection, and indeed in the QVMAG and TMAG collections, the recto number is the same as the verso number: “218”. The numbering is the work of Edward Searle and John Watt Beattie in the 1910s. They removed many of these mugshots from the prisoner’s record sheet held in a register, a bound book of blue forms at the Hobart Gaol, methodically numbering them in the process, to display to tourists as  “Types of convicts” at Beattie’s “Port Arthur” convictaria museum in Hobart , His assistant Edward Searle pasted three unmounted mugshots removed from their blue forms into a Searle family album with the caption “The Official Prison Photographs of Port Arthur Convicts” (see Edward Searle’s album 1915).

Prisoners were routinely photographed on arrest and discharge by Thomas Nevin from the early 1870s onwards: the booking shot taken at the time of their arrest and sentencing at the Hobart Supreme Court, and during remand to the adjoining Hobart Gaol. Another was taken on discharge. Those few 40 or so prisoners still at Port Arthur when Parliament tabled the closure of the derelict prison in July 1873 were returned to the Hobart Gaol by December 1873 and photographed on arrival. Nevin began the systematic photographing of criminals at the behest of the Attorney-General’s Office, soon after the government transferred the care of prisoners from Imperial to Colonial funds. In the early 1910s  Beattie salvaged the photographs from the photographer’s room above above the laundry at the Hobart Gaol before it was demolished in 1915 and those that survived were included in his estate acquired by the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery Launceston on his death in 1930. A selection from his estate was exhibited in 1934. Beattie used a synoptic version of the Supreme Court trial records to make a selection of the more notorious criminals for display in his museum, and those are the photographs which are now extant, transcribed with a generic date “1874” and the label “Port Arthur” to cater to the tourist’s fascination with Tasmania’s history as a British penal colony, a compliment to the publication date of Marcus Clarke’s bestselling novel, “For the Term of His Natural Life“.

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery holds a small collection of about 20 photographs of prisoners taken by Thomas Nevin, which were “borrowed” from the QVMAG’s  Beattie collection in Launceston ca. 1987. The hand-written inscriptions of the verso of Fitzpatrick’s cdv held at the NLA and that of Blore’s held at the TMAG are identical.

Convict Blore at the TMAG 2006
Ref: Q15596

The mount here bears the number “134” below the image. Like so many of these cartes which bear numbers from one to more than 300 either on verso or mount, some with the inscription “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” on verso, its provenance is from the QVMAG exhibition held in 1977 of convict portraits taken by commercial and police photographer T. J. Nevin..

TMAG Catalogue 2006
Ref: Q15596 ITEM NAME: Photographic print: MEDIUM: carte de visite, MAKER: A H Boyd [Artist]; TITLE: ‘[Convict]: “134” “119 / Samuel Blore / per Ld Petre / Taken at Port Arthur 1874.’ DATE: 1874

Although exhibited as Nevin’s photograph in 1977 at the QVMAG, by the time it was acquired and catalogued by the TMAG in 1987, it was wrongly attributed to A.H. Boyd. It is one of six or so cartes of Tasmanian convicts which were displayed online at the TMAG until November 2006. The TMAG holds two dozen or so in their collection with their attribution to A.H. Boyd, an error derived from the writer of their publication, Chris Long, in Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (TMAG 1995). Long blamed difficulties with his editor Gillian Winter, and rumours spread by Boyd descendants for publishing this furphy.