Prisoner James BRADY 1873-1874

James Brady was photographed at the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin on two different occasions. Three extant images from those two sittings are held in three public collections, viz. the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and the National Library of Australia. James Brady was a soldier of the 2/14 Regiment, 31 years old, when he arrived in Tasmania on board the Haversham in August 1867. He was branded with the letter “D” as a deserter and sentenced to 8 years for forgery and uttering in 1868. … More Prisoner James BRADY 1873-1874

Prisoner Cornelius GLEESON 1873 and 1916

In 1915, commercial photographer, convictaria collector and private museum operator John Watt Beattie held government commissions to boost the tourism industry with photographs of Tasmania’s two key attractions: wilderness landscapes and convict heritage. When Beattie reprinted these mugshots taken by Nevin of prisoners who were incarcerated in the 1870s – sentencing, incarceration and discharge being the only reason the police required their photograph – he labelled them with the word not common to British Edwardian usage – “convicts” – to resonate with the narratives and cliches of Tasmania’s/Van Diemen’s Land penal history prior to 1853, thereby deliberately suppressing the very ordinary reality that these men were prisoners who had been sentenced in the 1870s and 1880s. Not only were they officially designated as “prisoners” for the police, by 1871 they were the responsibility of the colonial government of Tasmania, not the British government. Yet, by 1916, when Beattie had salvaged dozens of Thomas Nevin’s original glass plate negatives and mounted cartes-de-visite of prisoners from the Hobart Gaol’s photographers’ room above the women’s laundry before it was demolished, he was reprinting them as commercial studio portraits on postcards, some even as cartes-de-visite, and some as uncut prints, labelling them “Imperial convicts” who were “photographed at Port Arthur”, none of which was historically factual. … More Prisoner Cornelius GLEESON 1873 and 1916

Rogues Gallery: the QVMAG collection

These police mugshots taken by police and commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s-80s at the Port Arthur prison, the Hobart Gaol (assisted by his brother Constable John Nevin) and the Hobart Municipal Police Office (Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall) are held in the John Watt Beattie Collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania. Most are Nevin’s originals and duplicates produced in vignette carte-de-visite format; some were reproduced from Nevin’s glass negatives by Beattie for sale and exhibition in Hobart at his museum and in Sydney at the Royal Hotel in conjunction with convictaria from the prison hulk Success (1916). An exhibition of these photographs by T. J. Nevin was held at the QVMAG in 1977. … More Rogues Gallery: the QVMAG collection

A missing or unidentified mugshot: prisoner Alfred HARRINGTON

The research we have provided on these weblogs since 2003 about the police work of professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin in Tasmania during the 1870s and the mugshots he produced has stimulated and inspired a global reading public. If you are curious enough to pursue your own detective work regarding the prisoner’s identity in this handful of the few remaining mugshots yet to be documented (see below), take advice from researcher Peter Doyle. In his latest publication of mugshots from the NSW Justice and Police Museum , Crooks Like Us (2009), Doyle states that the police gazettes were the first he consulted and the most reliable source of information (p.312). The equivalent Tasmanian police gazettes are available as searchable CDs (from Gould’s) and are also online at the Archives Office of Tasmania (although not as easily searchable). … More A missing or unidentified mugshot: prisoner Alfred HARRINGTON

Aliases, Copies, and Misattribution

Cataloguists, librarians, archivists, students, photo historians and others in public service have made a real mess of storing and recording the accession history, numbering, and data collation on these Tasmanian prisoners’ identification photos: obliteration, reinvention, fads, guesses, fashions, and personal agendas have managed to obliterate valuable data and thus the traces of facts from their past. … More Aliases, Copies, and Misattribution

Samuel Page’s Royal Mail coach

Samuel Page held the government contracts for the Royal Mail coach deliveries between Hobart and Launceston, and contracted Nevin for photographic advertisements of his coachline. Samuel Page lived at Belle Vue, New Town, a villa with stables, paddocks and gardens. He transported prisoners under government contract from regional stations and courts to be “received” at H.M. Gaol, Hobart, accompanied by constables. … More Samuel Page’s Royal Mail coach

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

Red and violet: the impact of Brewster stereoscopy

A modern viewer would assume that these portraits all have their provenance in a family album, and that a small childish hand had been at work with a paintbox. And perhaps that was the case, but there may yet be another explanation for why the portraits below, all bearing Thomas Nevin’s studio stamp, should exhibit such crude hand colouring when the hand-tinting of his other portraits – of family members, of himself, and even of a few convict cartes – is remarkably fine and delicate. The four examples here were all sold commercially, and were painted over after their purchase by their owners who had enough knowledge of stereoscopy to experiment, and may have possessed a stereo viewer. Single cartes were also viewed using a stereoscope, and the addition of colour and lines enhanced the depth of field. They were not painted by Nevin during printing, and they are not stereographs. None of Nevin’s stereographs were coloured in this manner. … More Red and violet: the impact of Brewster stereoscopy

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

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

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

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

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