The photographer’s tent at Port Arthur: 1872 or 1874?

This stereograph of a tent pitched on the lawn in front of the Government Cottage, with one gentleman in a top hat standing at a short distance, facing a young girl and another gentleman in a top hat outside the tent’s entrance, bears traces of multiple printings in different formats. The darkened round corners of the print suggest it was printed first in a double oval or binocular stereoscopic mount, and reprinted with squared corners. The dress fashion of the men and girl suggests day trippers in their Sunday best rather than the work-a-day dress of prison officials or local employees. If Nevin had taken this photograph in April 1874, the tent listed on the government schooner’s way bill definitely belonged to him, because he was away at Port Arthur and not in Hobart when the birth of his son Thomas James Nevin jnr in April 1874 was registered by his father-in-law Captain James Day, the only birth registration of his children he did not personally sign… However, if Nevin photographed this group two years earlier, on 1st February 1872, the more likely date, the girl and bearded man standing in front of the tent could be identified as Jean Porthouse Graves, the man as barrister Byron Miller (her future father-in-law), and the clean-shaven man facing them, solicitor John Woodcock Graves, Jean’s father. … More The photographer’s tent at Port Arthur: 1872 or 1874?

Photographers A. Bock, S. Clifford and T. Nevin at Port Arthur

In late March, 1866, photographer Alfred Bock was at the Port Arthur prison site on the Tasman Peninsula, 60 kms south of Hobart at the request of its Commandant, James Boyd. Alfred Bock’s studio – The City Photographic Establishment – at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, was manned by his junior partner Thomas Nevin and his apprentice, younger brother William Bock, in his absence. Bock’s mission at Port Arthur was to provide a series of landscapes and portraits of officials. However, it was photographer Samuel Clifford, Nevin’s friend and mentor, of Liverpool Street, Hobart, who was the source and supplier of photographic materials to the Port Arthur prison administration, in this instance for Alfred Bock in March 1866, and again in August 1873, when Clifford himself visited the prison site. … More Photographers A. Bock, S. Clifford and T. Nevin at Port Arthur

Margaret Glover and the fabrication of photohistory

The true origins of the photographic misattribution to non-photographer and Port Arthur official A.H. Boyd of Thomas J. Nevin’s police mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners 1870s-1880s lies with a reference to the art historian Margaret Glover’s article “Some Port Arthur Experiments” (1979) by Chris Long and/or Warwick Reeder (1995).

In 1979, Margaret Glover published an article about Port Arthur titled Some Port Arthur Experiments (In: T.H.R.A. Papers and Proceedings, vol. 26 no. 4, Dec. 1979, pp. 132-143).

The article deals with plants and animals and steam engines and the tenure of Commandant James Boyd (during the years 1853-1871). No mention is made of his successor Commandant A.H. Boyd, no mention is made of prison photography, and no mention is made in this article of A.H. Boyd’s niece E.M. Hall, nor is her children’s story, “The Young Explorer” (1931/1942).
More Margaret Glover and the fabrication of photohistory

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