One of the last portraits by Alfred Bock in Hobart 1865

PHOTOGRAPHERS Alfred BOCK and Thomas NEVIN 1860-1870s
THE CITY PHOTOGRAPHIC STUDIO 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Tasmania

Girl with bare shoulders and ringlets
Photographer: Alfred Bock ca. 1865
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2013

This photograph of a teenage girl with bare shoulders and ringlets may be one of the very last taken by Alfred Bock in Hobart Tasmania before his departure in 1865. The design of the studio stamp on the verso was altered only minimally by his younger partner Thomas J. Nevin who bought the lease of the studio, shop, the glass house and darkroom, the stock of negatives, camera equipment, backdrops and furniture etc at auction on August 2nd, 1865. Thomas J. Nevin continued to use the studio stamp’s design for his commercial studio portraiture for another decade, although he used at least six other designs for various formats and clients, including the Royal Arms insignia for his contracts and commission with the Colonial government.

Alfred Bock’s studio stamp design and Thomas Nevin’s adaptation after 1865
City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town
Copyright © Private Collections ARR 2007-2019

The Alfred Bock Legacy
The studio stamp (below) shows Alfred Bock’s earlier bare design used in the late 1850s with the photographer’s initials “A.B.” encircled by a belt with buckle, the motto in Latin “Ad Altiora” (towards the heights) withing the belt’s circumference, and a kangaroo perched on top. The studio’s address lies outside the design.

Alfred Bock stamp, mid-1850s
Copyright © The Private Collection of John & Robyn Mcullagh 2006-2007 ARR.

According to the biographical entry in Kerr (ed. 1992: 77-78 – see below),  Alfred Bock (1835 -1920) inherited his father Thomas Bock’s daguerreotype establishment at 22 Campbell Street Hobart Town in April 1855 and announced his own photographic business.

By July 1855 he had moved to Elliston’s premises at 78 Liverpool Street, formerly occupied by the photographers Duryea and McDonald where he built a “Crystal Palace” studio and purchased photographic equipment from Ross of London. Financial difficulties ensued, and Bock moved several times.

In 1857 Alfred Bock was at 18 Macquarie Street. But on 6th February, 1858, he was insolvent. Later that year, Bock re-established himself at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town – a business he called The City Photographic Establishment – and stayed there until 1865 when he was again declared insolvent.  In late May 1865, Alfred Bock’s wife gave birth to a daughter (Mercury, 23 May 1865). This event too may have precipitated Bock’s decision to sell up and leave Tasmania. On August 2nd, 1865 the stock-in-trade of Alfred Bock at the City Photographic Establishment was advertised for auction.

Biographical entry in The Dictionary of Australian Artists: painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870, Joan Kerr (ed) 1992 MUP, pp77-78. Photos © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

Alfred Bock was declared insolvent in 1865 and abruptly departed Tasmania, financially bruised by a dispute with photographer Henry Frith about the origins and rights to the sennotype process, His (half) brother William Bock departed for NSW, arriving in New Zealand in 1868. On 2nd August 1865 the stock-in-trade of Alfred Bock at the City Photographic Establishment was advertised for auction. The sale included a glass house which Bock and Nevin had installed at the end of the laneway adjacent to the studio, listed as 138½ Elizabeth St. on valuation rolls.

TRANSCRIPT

This Day
WEDNESDAY, 2nd August
at 11 o’clock
On the premises, 140 Elizabeth-street, nearly opposite the town residence of Henry Hopkins, Esq.
Stock-in-Trade of a Photographer
ALSO
Large Glass Studio, Shop Fittings, Oil Paintings, &c.
W.A. GUESDON & CO.
Have received instructions from John Milward, Esq, Assignee to the estate of Mr. Alfred Bock, to sell by auction, on the premises, Elizabeth-street, on THIS DAY, 2nd August, at 11 o’clock
THE STOCK-IN-TRADE of a Photographer, comprising –
Instruments, Chemicals, Background, accessories, chairs, tables, pedestals, vases, and many other necessary articles for taking photographic portraits, &c., &c.,
ALSO
A large and exceedingly well furnished glass house, 22 feet by 8 feet, with dark room attached,
AND
A few choice oil paintings in gilt frames, show cases, and photographs, an a small collection of books.
Terms – Cash

Source: Notice of auction of Alfred Bock’s stock in trade, Mercury, 2 August 1865.

Thomas Nevin at The City Photographic Establishment
The premises consisting of two house-and-shop properties owned by Abraham Biggs snr at 138-140 Elizabeth St. Hobart were still “unfinished” in 1853 according to the Hobart Valuation Rolls. By 1854 he was listed as the proprietor with his son, builder Abraham Edwin Biggs. By 1857 they had let the premises at 140 Elizabeth St. to photographer Alfred Bock which he operated as a studio with his (step) brother William Bock until 1865. On Alfred Bock’s departure to Victoria, commercial photographer and government contractor Thomas J. Nevin continued the business with the firm’s name, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town. He operated the studio in partnership with Robert Smith under the business name of Nevin & Smith briefly between 1866-68, vacating the shop, residence, glass house and studio a decade later, in 1876, to take up his appointment in full-time civil service with residency at the Hobart Town Hall.

Photographer Thomas J. Nevin with stereoscopic viewer and white gloves mid-1860s.
Copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR. Watermarked. Private Collection. 

This photograph was taken of Thomas Nevin wearing white gloves, holding a stereoscopic viewer and sitting next to the same drape and on the same carpet in the same setting as the capture of the young girl with bare shoulders and ringlets, perhaps captured on the same day. It may have been taken by Alfred Bock as well. The verso is blank, which usually meant it was only intended for viewing by Nevin’s cohort or immediate family, and has remained in the family since ca. 1865-7.

A photograph taken by Thomas Nevin of his fiancee Elizabeth Rachel Day, ca. 1865-68, while in partnership with Robert Smith, operating with the business name Nevin & Smith, shows a different set of studio furnishings than those he had recently acquired from Alfred Bock’s auction.

Elizabeth Rachel Day, Thomas Nevin’s fiancee (married 1871)
Taken by Thomas Nevin at Nevin & Smith (late Bock’s) ca. 1865
140, Elizabeth Street Hobart Town
Full-length portrait, carte-de-visite
Copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR. Watermarked.

Married in 1871, by 1874 Thomas Nevin had installed his wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin née Day and their first two children (Mary Florence Elizabeth aka “May” b. 1872 and Thomas James jnr aka “Sonny” b. 1874) in the residence next to the studio. Elizabeth’s father, master mariner Captain James Day, also resided there with the family while on shore in 1874. Thomas Nevin maintained his New Town studio (where he had first opened his professional practice in 1864) concurrently with his commercial practice at The City Photographic Establishment, Elizabeth St. from ca. 1865-1876. He procured government contracts on the recommendation of Attorney-General W. R. Giblin with the Hobart Municipal Police Office to photograph prisoners at the Port Arthur penitentiary (1872-4) and Hobart Gaol (1872-1886). By 1876, Nevin had set up studios at the Hobart Gaol and at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall where he resided with his wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day and four of his six surviving children up to his dismissal in December 1880.

Thomas Nevin entrusted his commercial stock to his close friend and colleague Samuel Clifford while working for the Hobart City Council at the Hobart Town Hall in residence from 1876-1880, returning to professional photography at New Town in 1881 until retirement in 1886-88.

The studio and glass house 1870s

A view of Thomas Nevin’s studio and shop, extreme right of frame, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart
Stereograph by T. J. Nevin ca. 1867-70 of the City Photographic Establishment
The dark building next door at 138 Elizabeth St., Nevin’s residence, was leased from A. E. Biggs
T. Nevin impress on lower centre of mount.
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection TMAG Ref: Q1994.56.12

Another view of Thomas Nevin’s studio and shop, extreme right of frame, at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart
The dark building next door at 138 Elizabeth St., Nevin’s residence, was leased from A. E. Biggs
Stereograph by T. J. Nevin ca. 1867-1870 of the City Photographic Establishment
TMAG Ref: Q1994-56-33

Archives Office Of Tasmania
Detail of larger photograph – see below and online at PH1/1/35, unattributed, 1870
The Royal Standard Hotel at 142 Elizabeth St. Hobart, cnr of Patrick St.
Thomas Nevin’s studio, glass house and residence, 140 -138 Elizabeth St. Hobart
These buildings have since been demolished and street numbers changed.

Elizabeth St north 1870: the callouts show the rear of the Royal Standard Hotel on the corner of Patrick St. at 142 Elizabeth St. Hobart and the building next door at No. 140  (James Spence, licensee of the hotel from 1862). The path at viewer’s left of the hotel leads upwards to the Trinity burial ground, located at the rear of Holy Trinity Church which has its entrance in Patrick St. Next door to the Royal Standard, looking down Elizabeth St. towards the River Derwent, is Nevin’s shop front and studio, advertised as his business address, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St.(half of house and shop front leased from James Spence). At the rear of 140 Elizabeth is the glass house which included a gallery, listed as 138½ Elizabeth St. and accessed by a side cart path, the property of A. E. Biggs. Next door (heading further down Elizabeth St towards the wharves) is Nevin’s family residence, the dark building at 138 Elizabeth St. Hobart, which was listed as “unfinished” in 1853 together with the building at 140 Elizabeth St. according to the Hobart Valuation Rolls, but by 1854, both properties were listed in the names of Abraham Biggs and his son, builder Abraham Edwin Biggs. They were the lessors of glass house, studio and residence, firstly to Alfred Bock (1856-1865) and then to Thomas Nevin (1865-1875). James Spence transferred the indentures on the Royal Standard Hotel at 142 Elizabeth St, and the cottage and shop at 140 Elizabeth St. to John Henry Elliott in January 1874. Abraham Edwin Biggs was still the lessor of 138 Elizabeth St. in 1878, selling up to Catherine Peck in 1886.

Between the studio, shop front and the residence at 138-140 Elizabeth Street was the glass house with a residence attached, listed variously in The Hobart Town Gazettes of 1872-4 with the address 138½ or 136½ Elizabeth Street, tenanted by Nevin’s young apprentice William Ross. In mid 1875, Thomas Nevin ran a series of advertisements for the lease of the shop, studio and glass house as he prepared his family to take up residence at the Hobart Town Hall with his appointment in January 1876 as Hall and Office Keeper to the Hobart City Corporation.

Nevin’s shop and glass house TO LET,
The Mercury 24 June 1875

TRANSCRIPT

TO LET, those eligible BUSINESS PREMISES in Elizabeth-street, presently occupied by Mr. Nevin, photographer. It is a double-windowed shop, has a large glass-house or gallery at the back, and has a side cart entrance. Apply to G.S. CROUCH, Auctioneer.

The glass house was eventually sold to photographer Stephen Spurling elder who auctioned it when he was declared bankrupt in November 1875.

Stephen Spurling elder, bankrupt, sale of photographer’s glass house
The Mercury 29 November 1875

Girl with bare shoulders and ringlets
Photographer: Alfred Bock ca. 1865
Copyright © Photo KLW NFC Imprint Private Collection 2013

RELATED ARTICLES main weblog