Sideshow Alley: Thomas Nevin at the NPG exhibition 2015


Ten Tasmanian prisoner mugshots by T. J. Nevin, 1870s
Exhibited at the NPG, Canberra, Sideshow Alley: Infamy, the macabre and the portrait,
4th December 2015 – 28th February 2016.
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2015

Prisoners’ names per the NPG card on left:
TOP ROW (l to r):
William Walker per Asia 4, James Calhoun native, James Geary native, Charles Dawnes [sic] per Rodney 2, William Hayes per Asia
BOTTOM ROW (l to r):
George Willis per Neptune 2, John F. Morris per Pestonjee Bomanjee 2, George Fisher per Stratheden, Samuel Evans native, Leonard Hand native.

The National Portrait Gallery (Australia) at Canberra is currently displaying this wooden frame containing ten “convict portraits” under glass at the exhibition, Sideshow Alley: Infamy, the macabre and the portrait, 4th December 2015 – 28th February 2016.The NPG web page for this exhibition is:

When the decision arose to borrow a handful of carte-de-visite mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners from the National Library of Australia’s collection of 84 Convict portraits, Port Arthur 1874, it was for reasons to do with cronyism, specifically involving the NLA’s reliance on the negligent errors in print of its paid advisers and valuers (eg. Warwick Reeder, 1995; Helen Ennis, 2000 et al) that the NPG curator of this exhibition, Sideshow Alley ensured their inclusion of the irrelevant name “A. H. Boyd” in the credits as a photographer. On the blue card on the wall at left (in photo above), Adolarious Humphrey Boyd’s name is printed above and before the name of the real photographer, government contractor Thomas J. Nevin, whose historically correct accreditation at the NLA was intact (Sprod papers NLA MS 2320, 1964) until staff there were bullied into colluding with the sycophantic Julia Clark at the Port Arthur Heritage Site in an abrasive attack on Thomas J. Nevin (and his descendants) to suppress Nevin’s name in order to promote A. H. Boyd into the annals of photo-history as some sort of gifted point-and-shoot amateur snapping shots of convicts on a Sunday for personal pleasure.

Read the “essay” Julia Clark sent to the NLA in 2007: click here.

The “essay” by Julia Clark (2007) bears no evidence that Boyd ever took a photograph of a man in prison clothing at any time in his sad, chequered career as a prison official. No photographs by this individual A. H. Boyd were extant in the 19th century, nor in the 20th century, nor now in the present. Not one photograph has ever been published or proferred by Clark or Boyd’s descendants to claim his talent as a photographer in any genre. Julia Clark’s efforts at personal abuse and plagiarisation of our extensive research from these Thomas J. Nevin weblogs evince a shabby game of playing the Port-Arthur-1996-events sympathy card in tandem with her parasitic aspiration of getting a PhD on the back of Nevin’s extensive photographic works (held at the SLNSW, TMAG. QVMAG, NZLIB, TAHO etc). The term currently used to describe the modus operandi of the NLA advertising Clark’s insistence that Nevin’s name be suppressed (against every catalogue entry for their convict portrait collection), an insistence which affects all users of the NLA collection including the NPG in the Sideshow Alley exhibition – is “apprehended bias”. Given the force which Julia Clark has mustered to legitimate her toxic attitude towards the descendants of not just one but the two police photographers, brothers Thomas Nevin and Constable John Nevin jnr who produced these mugshots for the Tasmanian government from 1872-1888 – we can readily add “academic fraud”.

Because Adolarious Humphrey Boyd was a much-despised public administrator, sacked from the position of Superintendent at the Queen’s Orphan School, New Town for misogyny in October 1864,and sacked again from the position of Commandant at the Port Arthur prison for graft, corruption and bullying in 1873, the PAHS decided in their commercial interests and quest to gain World Heritage status in 2007 that they should claim all these “convict portraits” as the work of their own disgraced Commandant A. H. Boyd with the intention of bringing him up from history smelling like roses. Of course they knew the attribution to be a baseless rumour; that A. H. Boyd was not a photographer by any definition of the term; that no records, documents, or photographs exist of his involvement at any level or stage in the production of these extant police identification photographs taken in 1870s Tasmania; and that his name in relation to these prisoners’ photographs had only surfaced as a rumour circulated by his pretentious descendants in the 1980s not long after the QVMAG’s exhibition of similar photographs from their collection in Nevin’s name in 1977. So the decision to make the NLA believe in A. H. Boyd had to be mounted with considerable aggression, and Clark – like one of those dogs tethered at the isthmus guarding Port Arthur back in the day – was their barker. This inclusion in the current exhibition, Sideshow Alley, of a photographer attribution to A. H. Boyd at yet one more Canberra exhibition (e.g. Mirror with a Memory, Heads of the People, Opening of the new NPG 2008) is best termed acquiescent corporate psychopathy, from and by those who readily promulgate misinformation to protect commercial interests.

Place and date of each photographic capture
The National Library of Australia has repeatedly chosen the same set of photographs from their collection of 85 Tasmanian prisoners’ mugshots (catalogued as “convicts”) for loan to the National Portrait Gallery because they are clean examples of the professional photographer’s use of the albumen process. Other examples in the NLA’s collection are damaged and dirty, and some are unmounted, e.g. Searle’s album. Most of the NLA’s collection is online, yet the versos of these photographs, which can provide researchers with valuable information. have not been digitised. The NLA believes that the absence of a photographer’s studio stamp on the versos – of police mugshots no less – is reason enough to engage in puerile political games of re-attribution, despite historical documentation, expert curatorial validation, and the presence of T. J. Nevin’s government contract stamp on several of these mugshots held in other national collections. The versos of the majority of these photographs were incorrectly transcribed in 1915-1916 with the wording “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” to promote penal heritage tourism to Tasmania when they were sent as exhibits to the Royal Hotel, Sydney, in conjunction with an exhibition of convictaria from the transport hulk, the Success. The majority of the 85 mugshots in the NLA collection consists of copies either duplicated from the originals – or missing from – the collections held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston.

Sideshow Alley, NPG 2015; ten prisoner mugshots by T J Nevin

Prisoners’ names per the NPG card on left:
TOP ROW (l to r):
William Walker per Asia 4, James Calhoun native, James Geary native, Charles Dawnes [sic] per Rodney 2, William Hayes per Asia
BOTTOM ROW (l to r):
George Willis per Neptune 2, John F. Morris per Pestonjee Bomanjee 2, George Fisher per Stratheden, Samuel Evans native, Leonard Hand native.

1. Prisoner William Walker

William Walker was photographed at the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall by Thomas Nevin on discharge, 22 July 1874, having served 7 yrs of a 10 year sentence. He was convicted again 23 October, 1875, sentenced to 6 months for larceny, and incarcerated at the Hobart Gaol. His age was listed as 68 yrs; his occupation as “painter”.See these original records for prisoner William Walker

2. Prisoner James Calhoun

James Calhoun, aged 21, native, (.i.e. locally born) was photographed by Thomas Nevin on discharge from the Hobart Gaol, 21st November 1874, having served a sentence of 6 years for sheep-stealing.  See these original records for James Calhoun.

3. Prisoner James Geary

James Geary served a short sentence of less than two years at the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on the 1 August 1868: he was “transferred to the House of Correction for Males Hobart Town to complete his sentence” on 28 March 1870, per record signed James Boyd Civil Commandant. He was photographed in the last weeks of incarceration at the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin prior to discharge in February 1874. See these records for James Geary; mugshots and rap sheet 1865-1896

4. Prisoner Charles Dawnes [sic] i.e Downes

Charles Downes was found guilty on a charge of feloniously assaulting Dorothy Smith, aged 9 years, in Stacey’s revolving circus in the Queen’s Domain, and remanded for sentence (15 Feb 1872). Charles Downes was photographed at the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin before his death sentence was reprieved to life imprisonment, May 1875.See these original records for prisoner Charles Downes and this article:Carnal knowledge of children

5. Prisoner William Hayes

William Hayes’ prison ID photograph was among the first taken by Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart House of Corrections when William Hayes was discharged from a 2 year sentence for indecent assault in the week ending 24 April 1872. See these original records for prisoner William Hayes.

6. Prisoner George Willis

George Willis, aged 48 yrs, and originally transported in 1838, was convicted in the Supreme Court at Hobart on 10th September 1872, sentenced to six years for larceny, sent to the Port Arthur prison, and then relocated to the Hobart Gaol in October 1873 where he was photographed by T.J. Nevin on incarceration. See these original records 1872-1880 for prisoner George Willis.

This carte-de-visite of prisoner George Willis online at the NLA (above) appears to differ from the rest in this set only because of the different technology used in its digitisation. A photograph taken in situ at the NLA of Nevin’s cdv of George Willis shows the same portraiture and printing techniques applied by Nevin to the rest of the cdvs of prisoners in this set, e,g, Fisher, Evans etc etc, viz:

Prisoner George Willis, cdv by T. Nevin


Recto and verso:
George Willis, transported to VDL (Tasmania) on the Neptune 2
Photographed by T. J. Nevin for the Municipal Police Office and Hobart Gaol 1873-4.
National Library of Australia Collection
NLA Identifier: nla.pic-vn5020355
Photos taken at the National Library of Australia, 7th Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR

7. Prisoner John F. Morris

John F. Morris was photographed by Nevin on discharge from the Hobart MPO Town Hall, 28th April, 1875 when his sentence of life for murder was remitted. See these original records for prisoner John F. Morris.; and this exhibition: In a New Light (NLA)

8. Prisoner George Fisher

T. J. Nevin took this photograph of George Fisher in December 1874 on Fisher’s incarceration at the Hobart Gaol Campbell St. for “forging an order to defraud J. E. Risby“. It was reprinted and re-issued for his re-arrest in 1877 for the burglary at Sir Francis Smith’s home. Fisher had been sentenced to 12 years in December 1874 by the Chief Justice Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith , and sent to Port Arthur, arriving there on Christmas Day. He was transferred back to the Hobart Gaol one year later in December 1875. In August 1877, he managed to abscond, broke into the Chief Justice’s home and stole several articles of clothing and other items of personal property. See these original records for prisoner George Fisher.

9. Prisoner Samuel Evans

Samuel Evans was photographed by Thomas Nevin at the Hobart Gaol, 9th December, 1874, on the prisoner’s discharge from an eight-year sentence for sheep-stealing. See these original records for prisoner Samuel Evans.

10. Prisoner Leonard Hand

Leonard Hand was convicted in the Supreme Court Launceston in April 1866 and sentenced to 15 years for the offence of “Attempting to commit sodomy”. Thomas J. Nevin photographed Leonard Hand on or about the 5th August, 1875, on the occasion of Hand’s transfer to H.M. Gaol, Campbell Street Hobart from the Port Arthur prison. Leonard Hand died “from natural causes” in custody, aged 26 yrs at the Hobart Town Gaol Campbell Street on 20th March 1876. See these original records for prisoner Leonard Hand.