Watering the Town Hall trees too “infra dig”  for the caretaker

On a dry Spring afternoon, a day or so before 19th September, 1879, a reporter at The Mercury newspaper office looked out his window and across the street to the Hobart Town Hall, sized up the state of the saplings struggling to survive in front of the portico, and sat down to pen a vituperative paragraph about the “caretaker” who, he insinuated, considered himself above a task as trivial as watering the trees. … More Watering the Town Hall trees too “infra dig”  for the caretaker

Julia Clark: A Question of Stupidity & the NLA

Thomas J. Nevin and descendants are apparently one of the more recent examples in a long line of Clark’s personal targets. See this article on her MO in Hobart museums by M. Anderson. Clark’s attack on the “Georgian splendour school of history” is deeply ironic, given that this Commandant A.H. Boyd she so firmly wants to promote as the prisoners’ photographer at Port Arthur was just that – a Georgian middle-class gent revelling in the spoils of his own corruption, a renowned bully reviled by the public in his own day. In Kay Daniel’s words, Clark’s analytical method is hypocritical – it’s “the view from the Commandant’s verandah school of history” – which she prescribes while pretending solidarity with her target, whether Aborigines or convicts. … More Julia Clark: A Question of Stupidity & the NLA

Husbands and Wives NPG Exhibition 2010

An exhibition of early colonial portraits titled HUSBANDS and WIVES has recently opened at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra Australia. Apart from the usual collection of cartes-de-visite, there are several daguerreotypes and ambrotypes of individuals, couples and family groups on display, including the coloured ambrotype by Thomas Glaister, ca. 1858 (below, from the NPG online). … More Husbands and Wives NPG Exhibition 2010

The Nevin farm burglariously entered 1881

During the night of the 16th instant the dwelling of John Nevin, Kangaroo Valley, was burglariously entered, and the following articles stolen there-from: – 2 white shirts, one much worn; 2 Scotch twill shirts, one has a patch of different material across the shoulder, the other broken at the elbow; 1 old flannel shirt, stained in front; 1 white pillow-slip; 2 jars of raspberry jam; 2 lbs. soap; 2 lbs. bacon; the property of and shirts identifiable by John Nevin. … More The Nevin farm burglariously entered 1881

Improprieties: A. H. Boyd and the Parasitic Attribution

The root of the notion that A.H. Boyd had any relationship with photography arose from this children’s story forwarded to the Crowther Collection at the State Library of Tasmania in 1942 by its author, Edith Hall. It was NEVER published, and exists only as a typed story, called “The Young Explorer.” Edith Hall claimed in an accompanying letter, dated 1942 and addressed to Dr Crowther that a man she calls the “Chief” in the story was her uncle A.H. Boyd, and that he was “always on the lookout for sitters”. Hopeful Chief! The imaginative Edith and her description of a room where the child protagonist was photographed (and rewarded for it) hardly accords with a set-up for police photography. The photographing of prisoners IS NOT mentioned in either the story or the letter by Edith Hall. In the context of the whole story, only three pages in length, the reference to photography is just another in a long list of imaginative fictions (many about clothes and servants) intended to give the child reader a “taste” of old Port Arthur, when both the author and her readers by 1942 were at a considerable remove in time. Boyd is not mentioned by name in the story, yet Reeder 1995 (after Long, 1995) and Clark (2010) actually cite this piece of fiction as if it contains statements of factual information. A.H. Boyd has never been documented in newspapers or validated in any government record of the day as either an amateur or official photographer. … More Improprieties: A. H. Boyd and the Parasitic Attribution

Poster boys 1991 of Tasmanian prisoners 1870s

Who were they? They were T. J. Nevin’s sitters for police records, mostly “Supreme Court men” photographed on committal for trial at the Supreme Court adjoining the Hobart Gaol when they were isolated in silence for a month after sentencing. If sentenced for a long term at the Supreme Court Launceston, they were photographed, bathed, shaved and dressed on being received in Hobart. These procedures, past and present, were reported at length by a visitor to the Hobart Gaol and Supreme Court in The Mercury, 8th July 1882: … More Poster boys 1991 of Tasmanian prisoners 1870s

John Nevin: “My Cottage in  the Wilderness” 1868

My Cottage in the Wilderness

Tir’d at last of Ocean dangers
I’ve sought and found a lone retreat,
Oft in youth deceiv’d by strangers
My home is now where friends may meet.
In a Vale by woods surrounded,
Romantic scenes I must confess, –
A rural building I have founded,
My cottage in the wilderness… … More John Nevin: “My Cottage in  the Wilderness” 1868

Fraudulent  pretensions

This image of a building is not a vignetted carte-de-visite photograph of a man in prison clothing, yet the curator of photographs at the State Library of NSW, Alan Davies, is proposing it is sufficient evidence to warrant a claim that A.H. Boyd was a photographer, and to extend that claim to a proposition that Boyd was also the photographer of the “bulk” of the 300 extant prisoner cartes, despite all the available evidence of attribution to Thomas J. Nevin. As recently as August 2009, Alan Davies maintained that proposition, which is founded in the cliched equation “Tasmania + convicts=Port Arthur” … … More Fraudulent  pretensions

T.J. Nevin’s prisoner mugshots,  Mitchell Library NSW

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 … More T.J. Nevin’s prisoner mugshots,  Mitchell Library NSW

T. J. Nevin’s big tabletop stereograph viewer

Although this image is faint – it is a scan of a print pasted into the scrapbook of his son George Ernest Nevin (1880-1957) which is held by Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin’s descendants in the Shelverton family – it shows clearly enough that George’s father, photographer Thomas J. Nevin, was rather fond of his big box table top stereograph viewer. It provided clientele with a ready amusement, a novel experience of 3D. The Victorian fascination with this “advanced” photography is quite understandable. Viewing a static stereograph, three images can be seen, not just one: the central image appears in deep perspective, with the image split into halves on either side. A double lens stereograph viewer of this size could hold a large number of stereograph cards; turning the wooden handle changed the card being viewed, providing a motion picture effect. In Nevin’s self-portrait – not a selfie in the strict sense, of course, taken probably by his younger brother Jack Nevin – a frame holder on top is propped up. In the two portraits below, the holder is flat. An earlier portrait of Thomas Nevin, taken ca. 1868, shows him wearing white gloves, posing with a smaller portable stereoscopic viewer, similar in size to a stereoscope camera. … More T. J. Nevin’s big tabletop stereograph viewer

Nevin’s mugshots: the transitional pose and frame

Between 1876 and 1884, transitional years in the history of 19th century prison photography, changes took place in the way Jack and Thomas Nevin posed the prisoner and and printed the final carte-de-visite. The technology changed too. Lenses after 1875 enabled a closer or larger image of the face. The prisoner was also posed closer to the camera in a full frontal position facing the photographer, and although the oval vignette was still the preferred format for printing, square frames were also used. The formalised front and profile pair of portraits using the methods of Bertillonage did not appear in Tasmanian prison photography until the late 1890s, by which time both Nevin brothers had ceased professional photography. … More Nevin’s mugshots: the transitional pose and frame

Nevin’s photos of prisoners SUTHERLAND and STOCK with death warrant

“To the SHERIFF of Tasmania and to the Keeper of her Majesty’s Gaol at Hobarton jointly and severally.
Whereas at a Session of Oyer and Terminer and General Gaol Delivery of the Supreme Court of Tasmania holden at Hobart in Tasmania aforesaid on Tuesday the fifteenth day of May James Sutherland was convicted before the [blank] of the murder of William Wilson and thereupon for that Offence received Sentence to be hanged by the neck until he should be dead – NOW IT IS ORDERED that execution of the said Sentence be accordingly made and done upon the said James Sutherland on Monday the fourth day of June at the Usual Hour and Place of Execution and that his body when dead be buried privately by the Sheriff –
Given under my Hand and Seal at – Hobart in Tasmania aforesaid this twenty third day of May in the year of Our Lord One thousand eight hundred and eighty three.
Francis Smith [JP initial, Justice of Peace]” … More Nevin’s photos of prisoners SUTHERLAND and STOCK with death warrant

Ferns, convicts, and Charles Darwin

In some of the dampest ravines, tree- ferns flourished in an extraordinary manner; I saw one which must have been at least twenty feet high to the base of the fronds, and was in girth exactly six feet. The fronds forming the most elegant parasols, produced a gloomy shade, like that of the first hour of the night.

The summit of the mountain is broad and flat, and is composed of huge angular masses of naked greenstone. Its elevation is 3100 feet above the level of the sea. The day was splendidly clear, and we enjoyed a most extensive view; to the north, the country appeared a mass of wooded mountains, of about the same height with that on which we were standing, and with an equally tame outline: to the south the broken land and water, forming many intricate bays, was mapped with clearness before us. After staying some hours on the summit, we found a better way to descend, but did not reach the Beagle till eight o’clock, after a severe day’s work. (Feb. 6, 1836: pp 486-7) … More Ferns, convicts, and Charles Darwin

Thomas Nevin’s portraits of his wife Elizabeth Rachel

This is an old black and white enlargement of a detail of a portrait of Elizabeth Rachel Nevin (1847-1914) in her later years, probably taken ca. 1900 by her husband. Just her face was magnified to an unusually large size, measuring approx. 8×10. It has the impact of a modern cinematic close-up. The magnified final image was pasted to grey cardboard. … More Thomas Nevin’s portraits of his wife Elizabeth Rachel

The PARKHURST prisoners & anthropometry

Tourists to Tasmania in the early 1900s were encouraged to disagree with this sort of thinking put forward in newspapers by Dr Goring. With the intense promotion of Tasmania’s penal heritage in the early 1900s, due largely to the release of the first of the two films based on Marcus Clarke’s 1874 novel, For The Term of His Natural Life (1908, 22 minutes), many Tasmanian prisoner identification photographs taken by Thomas J. Nevin on government contract to police and prison authorities in the 1870s were reprised by John Watt Beattie and Edward Searle for sale as tourist tokens in Beattie’s convictaria museum in the 1900s, called The Port Arthur Museum, although it was located in Hobart and not at Port Arthur. … More The PARKHURST prisoners & anthropometry

Melville Street from the Hobart Gaol 140 years ago

This stereograph, and others taken at the same time and place of the Prisoners Barracks (see below) are held at the State Library of Tasmania, and although unattributed, they were most likely taken by Thomas Nevin working with Alfred Bock between 1863-1866 at their studio, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart. The Nevin brothers’ association with the Hon. W. R. Giblin and the Hobart Gaol continued throughout the 1870s and 1880s while Nevin was contracted to the Municipal Police Office as prisons photographer, both as a commercial photographer on tender, and as a full-time civil servant. His principal studio, The City Photographic Establishment, was located one block away, close to the corner of Melville and Elizabeth Streets directly to the west. … More Melville Street from the Hobart Gaol 140 years ago

Poster of Thomas Nevin’s convict portraits 1870s

Who were they? They were T.J. Nevin’s sitters for police records, mostly “Supreme Court men” photographed on committal for trial at the Supreme Court adjoining the Hobart Gaol when they were isolated in silence for a month after sentencing. If sentenced for a long term at the Supreme Court Launceston, they were photographed, bathed, shaved and dressed on being received in Hobart. These procedures, past and present, were reported at length by a visitor to the Hobart Gaol and Supreme Court in The Mercury, 8th July 1882: … More Poster of Thomas Nevin’s convict portraits 1870s

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

First-born child May Nevin and the China trade soapstone vase/ brush washer

May was the child who witnessed the expansion of her father’s commercial studio practice in the early 1870s to include his commissions with the Colonial government working in prisons. She was the child whose father was also a police photographer and whose uncle Jack Nevin was a Constable at the Hobart Gaol. Her education was significantly enhanced by ready access to the world’s newspapers and books held in the Public Library, housed within the Hobart Town Hall, when her parents took permanent residency there on her father’s appointment to the civil service in 1876. … More First-born child May Nevin and the China trade soapstone vase/ brush washer

Nevin’s Royal Arms studio stamp

Commercial photographers in Tasmania in the 1870s and 1880s were extended two basic but very different types of government support, and these differences are evident in the designs of their studio stamps. Henry Hall Baily, for example, used a stamp signifying patronage by the Governor of Tasmania. He photographed notable citizens, visiting VIPs and official functions, often with the express intention of submitting his photographs to national and international exhibitions. In other words, Baily was never contracted under tender to work for the Colonial government, merely rewarded for special commissions by the Governor. His stamp from the mid 1880s was printed with the words “Under the Patronage of His Excellency Sir G. C. Strahan”, and the initials “K.C.M.G” beneath. Thomas J. Nevin, by contrast, was issued with a stamp which contained the design of the Supreme Court seal and the Prisons Department publications banner because he served the Colonial government as a photographer on a regular basis in Supreme Court sittings. … More Nevin’s Royal Arms studio stamp

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

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 dated 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

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

Prisoner records of Allan WILLIAMSON and William SMITH

The prisoner carte-de-visite of Allan Williamson pasted to the parchment record might have T. J. Nevin’s stamp on verso, but then again it may not, and for this reason: at least one duplicate of a prisoner’s mounted photograph was intended to be pasted to the prisoner’s record. More duplicates were made to be circulated to the police in the event of a warrant after the prisoner’s release. The photographer would not have wasted ink and time printing every carte on verso when the verso would never be visible. These cartes were co-owned by the government AND the photographer contracted on tender to produce them. Just one carte with the photographer’s official stamp verso per batch of 100 cartes was required by the the Customs and Patents Act. Primarily these cartes were legal instruments stamped with the government contractor’s Royal Arms insignia similar to the seal of the Hobart Supreme Court where many were taken. Their primary function was police records, unlike Thomas Nevin’s other cartes-de-visite of private citizens and those taken on commission, many of which bear his commercial stamps on verso or impressed on mount. No photographer’s stamp other than T. J. Nevin’s appears on these convict cartes-de-visite. … More Prisoner records of Allan WILLIAMSON and William SMITH

Nevin & Smith studio Elizabeth St. Hobart 1865-1868

Two studio stamps and one label have survived from their brief partnership. The first stamp featuring the Royal insignia of three feathers and a coronet, banded with the German “ICH DIEN” (I Serve) dates from the visit of Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, the Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria, in 1868 on H.M.S. Galatea.

These two children were probably photographed for an album of forty-eight photographic prints depicting the children of Tasmania which was gifted to Prince Alfred at his final reception on 18th January 1868 before returning to NSW where he was to survive an assassination attempt weeks later (at Clontarf, 12th March 1868). According to Jack Cato (1977:58), a group of Tasmanian photographers was invited to contribute to the Children’s Album … … More Nevin & Smith studio Elizabeth St. Hobart 1865-1868