Thomas Nevin’s Christmas feat 1874

A PHOTOGRAPHIC FEAT. – Mr T. J. Nevin, of Elizabeth-street, has performed a feat in photography which may be justly regarded as a literary curiosity. He has succeeded in legibly producing the front page of The Mercury of Wednesday, the 23 inst., on a card three inches by two inches. Many of the advertisements could be read without the aid of a glass, and the seven columns admit of a margin all round the card. … More Thomas Nevin’s Christmas feat 1874

Prisoner Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom

One of Thomas Jeffries’ distinguishing physical features was the sixth finger on his right hand which earned him the ironic moniker of “five-fingered Tom”. Mugshots showing hands was a feature of police photographs of prisoners in some jurisdictions such as New Zealand around this date, but not until the late 1880s in single mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners, when the frontal gaze had also become the standard pose, thought not consistent until the 1890s where the two-shot system of full frontal and profile photographs was introduced (after Bertillon). For example, in these two photographs of Francis Shearan taken by Nevin at the Hobart: the 1877 booking shot shows the hands and the full frontal gaze, but the shot taken on sentencing and incarceration betrays the classic 1870s studio portraiture technique typical of Nevin’s commercial practice. … More Prisoner Thomas JEFFRIES, aka five-fingered Tom

Two mugshots of Hugh COHEN or Cowen/Cowan 1878

These two images of Tasmanian prisoner Hugh Cohen (or Cowan/Cowen) differ slightly in details of his scarf arrangement and shirt collar. The two photographs as captures were taken at different sittings only a short time apart by Thomas J. Nevin, although printed in different formats. The negative and carte-de-visite (on left) was taken and printed by Nevin at the Hobart Gaol on the prisoner’s arrival from the Supreme Court Launceston in early April 1878, when Cohen’s sentence of death by hanging was passed and was still current. The second negative was taken and printed in the oblong format in late April 1878 when Cohen’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. … More Two mugshots of Hugh COHEN or Cowen/Cowan 1878

Posing with a stereoscopic viewer

Clients of early photographers were not the only ones to pose with the photographer’s own stereoscope(s). Two extant cartes-de-visite self-portraits by Thomas J. Nevin from The Nevin Family Collections captured his treasured stereoscopes, one with him holding a small viewer, possibly a Brewster, ca. 1868, and another with him standing next his large table-top stereoscopic viewer, possibly a Beckers (ca 1875). … More Posing with a stereoscopic viewer

Queen’s Brian May & Elena Vidal on T.R. Williams’ stereography 1850s

T.R. Williams’ stereographs taken of scenes in an English village in the 1850s (“Scenes in Our Village”) have been reproduced by Brian May and Elena Vidal in a superb publication, “A Village Lost and Found” . The book comes in a slip case that includes a stereoscopic viewer invented by Brian May “which makes the magic happen”. … More Queen’s Brian May & Elena Vidal on T.R. Williams’ stereography 1850s

Edwin Barnard at the NLA with Nevin’s convict photographs

The interviewee Edwin Barnard in this ABC news report poses here as an expert on the Tasmanian convicts photographs taken and produced by commercial and police photographer Thomas J. NEVIN in the 1870s. Original duplicates of these same mugshots held at the NLA which were made by Thomas Nevin and his brother Constable John Nevin for the police are held in other public institutions (TMAG, QVMAG, AOT, State Library of Tas, SLNSW) and private collections. … More Edwin Barnard at the NLA with Nevin’s convict photographs

The Supreme Court mugshots taken by T. J. Nevin from 1871 onwards

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 The Supreme Court mugshots taken by T. J. Nevin from 1871 onwards

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

A first-class faithful Likeness February 1873

Personal friendships, mutual business support and Lodge affiliations ensured priority and preference, and in Nevin’s case, his family solicitor, Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, and his Loyal United Brothers membership played a key role in the offer to provide the Municipal and Territorial Police, and the Prisons Department with identification photographs of convicted criminals. “A first-class faithful likeness” is exactly what the police wanted of the prisoner and ex-convict population. … More A first-class faithful Likeness February 1873

Thos. Jas. Nevin sr, John Perkins jr, and W.R. Giblin

On or about the 1st December 1874, Thomas J. Nevin pledged his support in the upcoming Hobart Municipal Council elections for Alderman candidate John Perkins Junior Esq. The Mercury newspaper customarily printed these formal pledges as a discursive solicitation by the supporters, and then provided a lengthy list of their names every week until the close of the election. … More Thos. Jas. Nevin sr, John Perkins jr, and W.R. Giblin

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

19th century prison photography: Tasmania 1872

When Thomas Nevin sat down to read The Mercury on the morning of 24th October 1872 and turned to an article reprinted from the London papers on “the valuable working of the Prevention of Crimes Act, or as it is better known, the Habitual Criminals Act” of 1871, he was more than aware of the use of photography by police. He had already taken photographs of prisoners at the Hobart Gaol at the behest of his solicitor and mentor since 1868, Attorney-General William Robert GIBLIN.. … More 19th century prison photography: Tasmania 1872

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

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

The QVMAG convict photos exhibition 1977

Most of these prisoner ID photographs were acquired by the QVMAG in 1927, as part of photographer John Watt Beattie’s (1859-1930) collection from his estate and convictaria museum in Hobart. Beattie’s sources in turn were the police gazettes and prisoner registers held at the Town Hall Municipal Police Office, where Nevin worked full-time 1876-1880, and from the Sheriff’s Office and Supreme Court at the Hobart Gaol where his brother Constable John Nevin was his assistant. Beattie had ready access as official government photographer ca. 1900s to these documents. … More The QVMAG convict photos exhibition 1977

From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

NEVIN’S GLASS NEGATIVES 1870s PRISONER BEWLEY TUCK or JOHN TUCK? Black and white print from Thomas Nevin’s glass negative taken of prisoner Bewley Tuck, No. 68 From the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (online until 2006) Of the three hundred and fifty (350) or so extant photographs taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin … More From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK

National Library of Australia’s convict portraits

Many of these convict cartes held at the NLA are duplicates of the same images held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and the Archives Office of Tasmania. This simple fact underscores the extensive copying which has taken place since the mid 20th century, principally from the QVMAG collection: 1958, 1977, 1982, 1985, 1987 and most recently for a digital database. Although the Nevin brothers photographed more than 3000 prisoners, the bulk has been lost, destroyed or sold at private auction. The remaining 300 or so were selected or salvaged by Beattie ca. 1916 to sell to tourists; he selected only those prisoners whose sentences were severe enough to warrant a criminal sitting in the Supreme Court: the offender’s apparent notoreity was the selling point. In this respect, the are not a random selection, nor a series. But they were not salvaged because they were an archive held at Port Arthur; they were never held at Port Arthur, nor taken there. Nevin photographed the prisoner once as a single capture in Hobart, produced prints from his original glass negatives at his city studio and later at studios in the Gaol and MPO, and made at least four duplicates from his glass negative for circulation to other prisons and police in regional Tasmania, in addition to the copies needed to paste onto warrants, prisoner records sheets, and the central register held at the Hobart Town Hall. … More National Library of Australia’s convict portraits

Recto & verso of cdv of prisoner John FITZPATRICK

The “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” inscription on the verso of a Tasmanian convict carte appears uniformly on many prisoner photographs originally taken by Thomas Nevin. The handwritten inscription and the date “1874” was written by an archivist ca. 1916, probably by John Watt Beattie who salvaged these cartes from the Hobart Gaol, but it has misled researchers into believing in the existence of a “Port Arthur photographer” of prisoners in 1874 (Long, 1995; Reeder, 1995). Thomas Nevin visited the site on several occasions in the company of other photographers (Alfred Bock, Samuel Clifford) from the mid 1860s to the mid 1870s, and by 1874 he was attending to police business there, checking transportation records against police record aliases. … More Recto & verso of cdv of prisoner John FITZPATRICK