Vernacular or art? Nevin at the threshold in 1874

The “vernacular” is defined as any photography that is not “art”: postcards, insurance records, passport photos, touristic photos, court documents, scientific images, forensic photographs taken at crime scenes etc etc. Thomas J. Nevin is somewhat remarkable in that his photographic records for the police, especially from the years 1872-1880s, are among the earliest to survive in Australian public collections and that his prisoner portraits are claimed as both art and vernacular photography. His portraiture techniques applied to judicial photography were “artistic” in a way that the mugshots produced by prison photographers in jurisdictions elsewhere  such as Victoria & NSW, in Australia, and Millbank and Pentonville, in the UK were unequivocal, documentary captures. Nevin’s prisoner photographs were not only posed, printed and framed as commercial portraits – either soft-focus framing or vignetted with darker backcloths – in some instances, they were also hand-coloured for heightened realism. … More Vernacular or art? Nevin at the threshold in 1874