Mirror with a Memory Exhibition, National  Portrait Gallery 2000

A new National Portrait Gallery of Australia is under construction in Canberra. No doubt the new spaces will display photographic portraits of convicts transported to Australia, as part of the country’s rich history of migration. How will the National Portrait Gallery handle issues of attribution? Will the contradictions of the exhibition Mirror with a Memory … More Mirror with a Memory Exhibition, National  Portrait Gallery 2000

Prisoner poses: women, children and ticket-of-leave men

The pose was not the result of the social status, class and power differentials between photographer and convict, as Helen Ennis suggests (Exposures, Photography and Australia , 2007, pages 21-22), a suggestion which ignores this pattern in Nevin’s technique; which assumes that Nevin was not familiar, nor even friendly, with these convicts, some of whom had travelled as Parkhurst boys with Thomas Nevin, aged 10, and his family to Tasmania in 1852 on board the Fairlie, eg. Michael Murphy; and which presupposes that at the point of capture the convict was cowering under the gaze of a punitive individual such as the Commandant of the Port Arthur prison, A.H. Boyd, a furphy [erroneous story] created by Chris Long which has resulted in a misattribution, and has misled Ennis into publishing this comment that is coloured by this underlying misconception: … More Prisoner poses: women, children and ticket-of-leave men

Thomas James ‘Sonny’ Nevin (1874 – 1948)

Thomas James Nevin jnr was born in 1874 at the residence attached to his father’s photographic studio at 140 Elizabeth St, Hobart Town. He was the second child of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin and the first son – his elder sister May (Mary Florence) was born in 1872).

Known as “Sonny” to family descendants, he travelled to California to reside there for a time with his wife Gertrude Tennyson Bates and his wife’s family who migrated there in the early 1900s. Both returned to Hobart and both died there, Thomas James in 1948, and Gertrude Bates in 1955. … More Thomas James ‘Sonny’ Nevin (1874 – 1948)

Haulage at Newdegate St. North Hobart

MOUSTACHE STYLES ACCIDENTAL DEATH 1927 NAME DISAMBIGUATION William John Nevin (1878-1927), sporting a shaggy half-horseshoe moustache Photographed by his father Thomas J. Nevin ca, 1897 Copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR Private Collection William John Nevin ( 1878-1927), photographed by his father in 1897,  was the fourth child and third surviving son born to photographer … More Haulage at Newdegate St. North Hobart

Two histories, two inscriptions: Tasmanian prisoners 1874

Thomas Nevin would have carried at least two copies on his person of the prisoner’s photograph, one loose and one pasted to the prisoner’s record sheet, in the event of attempted escape in transit. Other copies remained at the Office of Inspector of Police, Town Hall, Hobart. Dr Coverdale, the Surgeon-Commandant at Port Arthur who had replaced A.H. Boyd by January 1874 deemed this procedure sufficient for security as a dozen or so prisoners were evacuated every week back to Hobart by schooner as soon as he assumed office. Clearly, Dr Coverdale’s predecessor A. H. Boyd had nothing to do with this photograph of Job Smith, nor indeed with any other of these 1870s prisoner mugshots for the simple and very obvious facts that (a) Boyd was not a photographer and no photographs in any genre supposedly taken by him have been found extant nor ever will be found unless they have been faked, as for example, the image of the Port Arthur prison printed by the Anson Bros in 1889 (Kerr, Stilwell 1992); and (b) the commission awarded to Thomas Nevin to photograph prisoners was given in 1872 by the Attorney-General W. R. Giblin after the visit by senior prison official and politicians from Victoria to the Port Arthur prison. Just one image, reprinted many times, of Job Smith aka William Campbell is extant. Thomas Nevin photographed him once and once only, although at least three duplicates and copies are currently extant in State and National collections. … More Two histories, two inscriptions: Tasmanian prisoners 1874

With Alfred Bock mid 1860s

The verso of this portrait of a standing child bears Alfred Bock’s studio stamp for the City Photographic Establishment which is identical in design to one of the stamps adopted by Thomas Nevin while working with Bock in the early 1860s. Nevin continued to use this design when he acquired Bock’s studio and stock, The City Photographic Establishment, in 1865 on Bock’s departure from Tasmania. … More With Alfred Bock mid 1860s

Anne-Marie Willis & Richard Neville on the Boyd misattribution

“Sometimes the entries are not clear. His important argument that Adolarious Boyd, the superintendent at Port Arthur, was the photographer of the well-known portraits of Port Arthur convicts rather than Thomas Nevin is not found in the Boyd entry, but rather under “convict photographs”. No “see also” reference is provided to that entry – rather one is given to Charles Woolley for whom one can see no obvious link. It would be very easy, therefore, to miss the substance of his argument. To a certain extent the book has the look of something produced by desktop publishing, and it seems to have the usual infelicities and typo’s of that genre. Editor Gillian Winter’s description of its publication history suggests that it was a difficult birth, and indeed she describes it as a “draft publication”, which is not altogether reassuring.” … More Anne-Marie Willis & Richard Neville on the Boyd misattribution

Alfred Bock & Thomas Nevin at Port Arthur 1860s

PERSONAL: – Mr Alfred Bock, writing from Auburn, Victoria, intimates that he is not dead, neither is he “the late Mr. Bock”, as stated in a note under a picture of the late Mr Boyd in a recent copy of “The Tasmanian Mail.” He adds:- “I suppose by the ‘late Mr. Bock’ it means to refer to my father, but he never took a photograph in his life. The picture was actually taken by me on the occasion of my visiting Port Arthur at the request on the officers of the station for the purpose of painting a portrait of Mr Boyd for presentation to that gentleman; I think about 1863 or 1864; I am not quite sure as to the year. I should be glad if you could make the correction, especially as some of my friends have been inquiring about my decease.
More Alfred Bock & Thomas Nevin at Port Arthur 1860s

The Old Curiosity Shop

William Radcliffe published a guide to Port Arthur in the 1930s with photographs by John Watt Beattie taken in the early 1900s. The shame of convict heritage, a keenly felt stigma of the times, required concealment of real names. On page 25, he writes:

In consideration of relatives who may be living, the actual names have been omitted. If any doubt of the facts is occasioned in any way, the records may be seen on application at my museum at Port Arthur. … More The Old Curiosity Shop

Dry plate photography 1860s

Published in London, The Photographic News contained a wealth of news and technical information about processes and equipment. The volume spans a year in the development of dry-plate photography, solar photography, photolithography, glass house construction and a thousand other items of interest in advanced photophysics and photochemistry. Alfred Bock and Thomas Nevin had reconstructed Bock’s glass house at their studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth-street, Hobart Town, by 1865, and produced some extraordinary solar photographs. Samuel Clifford, also a partner of Thomas Nevin, applied information from such a source to produce his much praised dry plate photographs using Russell’s Tannin Process, which were exhibited at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition in 1866. … More Dry plate photography 1860s

The table with the griffin-shaped legs

Charles A. Woolley placed an advertisement in the Tasmanian Mercury, February 11th, 1871 for his wonderful “magalethoscope” [sic]. Charles Woolley’s ad in the Mercury February 11, 1871 This is a misprint, perhaps by the newspaper. The megalethoscope was an apparatus for viewing photographs with stereoptical effect. It was invented in Venice by Swiss-born Carlo Ponti, … More The table with the griffin-shaped legs

John Watt Beattie’s Museum ca 1916

“There are three rooms literally crammed with exhibits … The question which pressed itself on my mind time and again was, how comes it that these old-time relics which formerly were Government property, are now in private hands? Did the Government sell them or give them away? The same query applies to the small collection in a curiosity shop at Brown’s River. Whatever the answer may be, I hold the opinion that the Government would be amply justified in taking prompt steps to repossess them, even though some duplicates may be in the State Museum. Today the collection is valuable and extremely interesting. A century hence it will be priceless. It would surely be unpardonable to allow it to pass into the hands of some wealthy globe-trotter which is the fate awaiting it, unless action be taken to secure it to the State.” … More John Watt Beattie’s Museum ca 1916

Prisoner Wm FORSTER aka BROWN: The Bulletin, May 16, 1978

The article below appeared in The Bulletin, a weekly Australian magazine on May 16, 1978. The journalist’s name was not recorded. It was published a year after the initial exhibition of the Tasmanian convict portraits by Thomas Nevin, held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in 1977. The article detailed the criminal career … More Prisoner Wm FORSTER aka BROWN: The Bulletin, May 16, 1978