THOMAS NEVIN’S ELEVEN
The Mitchell Library at the State Library of NSW has catalogued eleven prisoner photographs so far which were taken by Thomas Nevin and his younger brother Jack Nevin at the Hobart Gaol between 1875 and 1884.
All of these men were habitual offenders with long criminal records who spent as much if not more time in gaol as out on assignment to an employer. These are their mugshots, and typical of the 3500 or so taken over the decade by Thomas Nevin, with the assistance of his brother Constable John Nevin. The two brothers were required by the Prisons Department and Municipal Police Office to photograph men (but not women) who were arrested, with a “booking photograph”. They were also required to photograph those who were arraigned at the Hobart Supreme Court, incarcerated at the Hobart Gaol, or discharged from the Town Hall Municipal Office. And in some instances, they photographed dead men walking, those destined to be hanged.
The exact dates on which these men were photographed, some at least twice, can be adduced from their police records published in the weekly police gazettes, called Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1865-1880( Government Printer, James Barnard), held at the Archives Office of Tasmania. The death warrants which accompany two of these vignetted cartes (Sutherland and Stock) are held at the Mitchell Library, bound in a volume called Death Warrants V.D.L (Tasmania, Supreme Court C203).
The following photographs of Nevin’s mugshots for these eleven prisoners provide information about –
- the pose and framing techniques used by Thomas Nevin in the mid 1870s, reflective of conventional commercial portraiture
- the transition period between the brothers’ commercial portraiture and the regulated official prison photograph, typically a full frontal capture, dating from late 1870s – 1880s
- the archival inscriptions and numbering which date from the library’s accession of the collection, bequested by David Scott Mitchell in 1907
- the library’s contemporary methods of storing, pasting, mounting and cataloguing this collection
- etc etc -i.e. whatever the punctum may be for the viewer
All photography copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR.
Some are stamped verso with Nevin’s Royal Arms government stamp(two above), some have handwritten details of the crime and date of arraignment in different hands
Two of the same man, Francis Shearin (police records show spelling variations and aliases): on left is the booking photograph 1877, on right the sentencing shot, 8 years for murder, taken in July 1878.
Shearin’s sentence: Police record in Tasmania Reports of Crime 2nd August 1878
Full frontal, eyes up.
Booking shot of Henry Stock, executed 1884
Sutherland, full frontal shot, hand-tinted, photographed in the week before his death by hanging, May-June 1883.
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