Elizabeth Nevin’s souvenir cruet of the Model Prison

This piece of souvenir ware was Made in Germany, and was either “57” in a series or made at a coded location, according to the mark on the bottom of the large bowl bearing an image on the front of what claims to represent the ruins of the Model Prison at the Port Arthur penitentiary, Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania. … More Elizabeth Nevin’s souvenir cruet of the Model Prison

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

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

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

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

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

Sir Francis Smith, the death warrant, and the photographer

Although this photograph is accredited to J.W. Beattie (1859-1930) by the State Library of Tasmania, it is a reprint made several decades later than the original capture taken possibly in the late 1870s. Here the Tasmanian administrator, Attorney-General and Chief Justice, who was born in 1818, looks like a man in his fifties. He appears to be about 15 years older than his earlier 1860s portrait by Reutlinger (below) which portrays a man in his early forties. Sir Francis Smith would have been an old man of eighty years or so by the time Beattie produced his Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania series in 1895-1900, and clearly this is not a portrait of an eighty year old. It is yet another reprint by Beattie without acknowledgement to the original photographer. … More Sir Francis Smith, the death warrant, and the photographer

Professor Joan Kerr 1992-4

Professor Joan Kerr (1938-2004) conducted research in collaboration with Special Collections Librarian at the State Library of Tasmania, G. T. Stilwell, on Thomas J. Nevin’s life and career for inclusion of an entry in her massive two volume biographical dictionary of Australian artists and photographers which she published in 1992 (page 568): Photo KLW NFC … More Professor Joan Kerr 1992-4

Mugshots removed: Edward Searle’s album 1915

The National Library of Australia holds an album titled Tasmanian Views, catalogued in Searle’s name and dated ca. 1915. The album contains a series of contemporary snapshots taken of the Searle family while visiting the Tasman Peninsula, Maria Island, Norfolk Island, and New Norfolk, possibly accompanying Beattie on his various and highly productive photographic excursions. The family photographs are mixed in no particular order with scenic postcards bearing Beattie’s trademark, views and portraits of Antarctic expeditions, and reprints of 1860s-1870s photographs representing Tasmania’s troubled convict and Aboriginal past, all of which Beattie and Searle supplied in quantity for the 1900s tourist market, The inclusion of many family photographs in this album suggests it was intended for private viewing rather than public display, put together by Searle for his family as a memento of his four years’ employment at Beattie’s studio. … More Mugshots removed: Edward Searle’s album 1915

NLA ‘native’ convict 1874 with no attribution

Henry Cavanagh was sent to Port Arthur in December 1873. His name does not appear in the House of Assembly Journals, Nominal Return of Prisoners sent to Port Arthur since its transfer to Colonial Governmentin 1871, tabled in Parliament on 11th June, 1873. He was discharged before that date, on the 14th June 1872 after sentencing of one month in Hobart, and arraigned in Launceston nine months later, on the 3rd September 1873. He was received at the Hobart Gaol, sentenced to 6 years, and photographed there on 17th September 1873 by T. J. Nevin. He was a ‘native’, i.e. a locally-born prisoner, and too young to be a transportee among the thousands who arrived before 1853 when transportation ended to Tasmania. … More NLA ‘native’ convict 1874 with no attribution

The QVMAG, the NLA, Chris Long and A.H. Boyd

The Queen Victoria and Albert Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, seemed so intent on abrogating the name of Thomas J. Nevin as photographer from any association with its holdings of the “Port Arthur convicts” photographs which were exhibited there in 1977 as Nevin’s work that in a letter to a Nevin descendant date 17th November 2005, the technical officer showed considerable confusion and made contradictory and incorrect statements. … More The QVMAG, the NLA, Chris Long and A.H. Boyd

The journey from Hobart to Port Arthur 1873-4

The notice below was published in Walch’s Tasmanian Almanac in 1873, at a time when the Port Arthur prison site on the Tasman Peninsula, 60 kms from Hobart, was still in operation. The traveller from Hobart faced a frequently interrupted, long and uncomfortable journey, alternating between road and sea transport and an overnight hotel stay. … More The journey from Hobart to Port Arthur 1873-4

Prison photographers T. Nevin, C. Nettleton and F. Crawford

“‘I have the honor to inform you that in obedience to your instructions I visited the stockade on the 21st and the gaol on the 22nd inst. and likewise consulted the Sheriff and Superintendent of Convicts as to the best method of carrying out the wishes of the Government in regard to taking photographs of the prisoners in these establishments. I found in the stockade 147 and in the gaol 110 prisoners – of these say 120 in the stockade and 70 in the gaol, in all 190, would be such characters as the Sheriff or Commissioner of Police might desire to have photographs of for police purposes…” … More Prison photographers T. Nevin, C. Nettleton and F. Crawford

Convict Carte No. 1: George WHITE aka NUTT

The database image with verso at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery: note that the verso is inscribed with the conventional date of Nevin’s photographic registration (1874), the alias, and the ship on which Nutt was originally transported before 1853, but the transcription which appears on many other versos of convicts’ cartes – “Taken at Port Arthur” – is absent. Nevin may have photographed Nutt at Port Arthur between 23rd February and 8th May 1874; the former date being another sentence for Nutt for breaking the cell while trying to escape, the latter being one of the dates on which Nevin attended Port Arthur on police business. He was absent from Hobart when his father-in-law Captain James Day registered the birth of Thomas James Nevin jnr in May 1874. … More Convict Carte No. 1: George WHITE aka NUTT

Signatures and handwriting 1870s

Examples of Thomas Nevin’s handwriting can assist in identifying inscriptions on the versos of so many unattributed photographs of the period in public holdings. The handwritten inscription – “Clifford & Nevin, Hobart Town” – which appears on several studio portraits in private and public collections, may be one source of either Nevin’s or Clifford’s calligraphy. … More Signatures and handwriting 1870s

At the Salmon Ponds and Plenty

Samuel Clifford’s name appears only twice in the weekly police gazettes, called Tasmania Reports of Crimes Information for Police between the years 1866-1880, and in both instances because he was a victim of theft: some silver cutlery and a table cloth were stolen from his house and reported on 17th October 1873, and most heart breaking of all, his camera was stolen while staying at the Wilmot Arms at Green Ponds, in the district where these stereographs of the Salmon Ponds were taken. No doubt Samuel Clifford and Thomas Nevin made many trips to the Green Ponds area, and since Clifford reprinted so many of Nevin’s commercial negatives from 1876, placing an accurate date and even a sole attribution to Clifford on the extant albums of views etc is far from straightforward. … More At the Salmon Ponds and Plenty

Hugh Munro Hull & the wallhanging

This full-length photograph of Hugh Munro Hull in official dress was taken by Alfred Bock or Thomas Nevin at their studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth-street Hobart between 1863 and 1868 where one of their backdrops featured a square tiled terrace pattern rising in perspective to a painted balustrade overlooking a vista of disappearing river and mountains. … More Hugh Munro Hull & the wallhanging

State Library of Tasmania’s  “Unknown”

This stereograph is listed at the State Library of Tasmania as unattributed – “Creator: Unknown” with the title “House in Newtown”. It is dated to 1870, although the majority of Thomas J. Nevin’s early stereographs were produced from his New Town studio in the mid to late 1860s. By 1868 he was principally operating from his city studio at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart, although he maintained the New Town studio concurrently with his civil service during the years 1876-1880 at the Hobart Town Hall and police work in the courts until the birth of his last child in 1888. … More State Library of Tasmania’s  “Unknown”