T. J. Nevin’s mugshot of John FINELLY taken at the Police Office Hobart March 1874

When captured, escapee John Finlay or Finelly was sentenced at the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall, to six months to be served once more at the Port Arthur prison. He was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall [P.O. Hobart] on 17th March 1874 as soon as the conviction was recorded. Finelly was received at Port Arthur on 29th March 1874. In December 1874 he was committed twice to spells of 24 hours and seven days in solitary confinement at Port Arthur for disobedience and insubordinate conduct respectively. He was transferred back to the House of Corrections for Males (the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street) on 17th April 1877 on the closure of the Port Arthur prison. John Finelly was discharged in January 1879 and returned to Launceston where he died on 8th March 1883. … More T. J. Nevin’s mugshot of John FINELLY taken at the Police Office Hobart March 1874

Sideshow Alley: Thomas Nevin at the NPG exhibition 2015

The National Portrait Gallery (Australia) at Canberra is currently displaying this wooden frame containing ten “convict portraits” under glass at the exhibition, Sideshow Alley: Infamy, the macabre and the portrait, 4th December 2015 – 28th February 2016. The National Library of Australia has repeatedly chosen the same set of photographs from their collection of 85 Tasmanian prisoners’ mugshots (catalogued as “convicts”) for loan to the National Portrait Gallery because they are clean examples of the professional photographer’s use of the albumen process. Other examples in the NLA’s collection are damaged and dirty, and some are unmounted, e.g. Searle’s album. Most of the NLA’s collection is online, yet the versos of these photographs, which can provide researchers with valuable information. have not been digitised. The NLA believes that the absence of a photographer’s studio stamp on the versos – of police mugshots no less – is reason enough to engage in puerile political games of re-attribution, despite historical documentation, expert curatorial validation, and the presence of T. J. Nevin’s government contract stamp on several of these mugshots held in other national collections. … More Sideshow Alley: Thomas Nevin at the NPG exhibition 2015

How to read the records: prisoner Peter MOONEY

Too often the 300 or so extant 19th century photographs of Tasmanian prisoners taken by commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the decade 1870-1880 are circulated within academic discourse as realistic representations of “Port Arthur convicts”, the term used in public library and museum catalogues, and by historians who fail to interrogate the term as a systemic cultural belief about Tasmania. But the vast majority of these photographs show men in their forties, fifties and sixties, not the youths they were when they were transported and incarcerated at Port Arthur prior to July 1853, the date when transportation ceased to the penal colony. So these photographs cannot function as images in any synedochal sense either within discourse about an historic era of “transportation”, or of “Port Arthur” as its contextual genesis and genius loci.

Commercial photographer T.J. Nevin took these photographs as mugshots of men, recidivists who had offended locally and repeatedly, for the Municipal Police and Gaol authorities in Hobart between 1872 and 1880. By 1900, the 1870s mugshots had been removed from the original registers by the government photographer and commercial entrepreneur of convictaria, John Watt Beattie. The photographs initially had been arranged by the prisoner’s discharge date, a common administrative practice which survived into the 1930s. However, the 1870s discharge registers have not survived intact. Late registers do survive, in which the prisoner’s mugshot is accompanied by his criminal record and discharge notice. These are now held at the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office (Ref: POL708).

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The first Rogues’ Galleries

“The public may not be aware that there is a photographic album at Scotland Yard, in which may be seen the carte of every ticket-of-leave man in the country … One carte de visite is kept in the police album at Scotland Yard, another at the station-house of the division of the metropolis in which he may select to reside, and a third is forwarded to any country district he may wish to remove to …” … More The first Rogues’ Galleries