One of the last portraits by Alfred Bock in Hobart 1865


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 2, 1865. Thomas Nevin continued to use the 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 commissions with the Colonial government.


Alfred Bock’s studio stamp design and Thomas Nevin’s after 1865
Copyright © Private Collections ARR 2007-2013

The stamp (below) shows Alfred Bock’s earlier bare design 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.

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. By this time Thomas Nevin had been working with Bock as his apprentice since July 1863. Bock’s other apprentice was his younger brother, William Bock, still a teenager when he served more than two and half years in the studio at the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth-street, Hobart Town. But by 1864, Alfred Bock and Thomas Nevin were engaged in a war with photographer Henry Frith about the origins and rights to the sennotype process, and by 1865, financially bruised by the experience, both Alfred Bock and Henry Firth abruptly departed Tasmania. William Bock departed for NSW, arriving in New Zealand in 1868.

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 2, 1865 the stock-in-trade of Alfred Bock at the City Photographic Establishment was advertised for auction:

Auction of Alfred Bock’s stock
The Mercury, 2 August 1865


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
Large Glass Studio, Shop Fittings, Oil Paintings, &c.
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.,
A large and exceedingly well furnished glass house, 22 feet by 8 feet, with dark room attached,
A few choice oil paintings in gilt frames, show cases, and photographs, an a small collection of books.
Terms – Cash

The Mercury, 2 August 1865

Bock, Alfred in Kerr 1992Alfred Bock bio in Kerr 1992

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

Although Nevin had a studio in New Town during the 1860s, once he acquired Bock’s studio, equipment and stock of negatives, he planned to move residence from the family property at Kangaroo Valley (now Lenah Valley) to the residence at 138-140 Elizabeth St, Hobart. He carried on the business there in his own name until joined briefly by Robert Smith (1865-1868). The partnership with Smith was dissolved in February 1868 by W.R. Giblin, Nevin’s solicitor, later Attorney-General and Premier.

A 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 Bock as well. The verso is blank, so it was only intended for viewing by Nevin’s cohort or immediate family, and has remained in the family since ca. 1865-7.

Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1866

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

A slightly later photograph taken by Nevin of his fiancee Elizabeth Rachel Day, ca. 1865-68, while in partnership with Robert 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.

The Nevin Group Portrait ca. 1870s and detail:
Alfred Bock second from right standing next to Thomas’ younger brother Jack Nevin extreme right,
Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin seated
From © KLW NFC & The Nevin Family Collections 2009 ARR

Thomas J. Nevin continued with commercial photography until late 1875, and procured tenders with help from Giblin for contracts with the Municipal Police Office to photograph prisoners at the Port Arthur penitentiary (1873-4) and Hobart Gaol (1871-1880).

By mid 1875, Nevin had set up studios at the Hobart Gaol and at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall where he was soon to take up permanent residency with wife Elizabeth Rachel and the first two of his six children to survive, May (b.1872) and Thomas James (b.1874), both of whom were born at the old city studio.

Nevin's former studio Elizabeth St

View of Nevin’s double-windowed shop, former residence above, and glass house across the laneway.
Publisher: Hobart, Tas. : J.W. Beattie, 1905
ADRI: AUTAS001126251552
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

Between the studio and the residence at 140 Elizabeth Street was the glass house with a residence attached, listed in The Hobart Town Gazette of 1872 with the address 138-and-a-half – 138½ Elizabeth Street, and tenanted by Nevin’s young apprentice William Ross. The glass house was built by Alfred Bock and Thomas Nevin in the 1860s.  In mid 1875, Thomas Nevin advertised the lease of the shop, studio and glass house as he prepared his family to take up residence at the Hobart Town Hall. It was eventually sold to photographer Stephen Spurling elder while Nevin continued working in situ with the police. Spurling auctioned it when declared bankrupt one year later in November 1875.

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

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