Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Securing a proper likeness": Tasmania, NSW and Victoria from 1871



Left: George Leathly, QVMAG Colllection
Right: National Library of Australia Collection
George Leathley, per ship Blundell, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
Creator: T. J. Nevin
Date: 1874.
Extent: 1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.4 x 5.6 cm., on mount 10.4 x 6.4 cm.
Context: Part of Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
Series: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.
Title from inscription on reverse.
Inscription: "nos. 14 & 226"--On reverse.

Professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin was commissioned by his family solicitor, the Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, to photograph prisoners for the Colonial Government of Tasmania as early as 1871, the year  the government of NSW authorised the Inspector of Prisons, Harold McClean, to commence the photographing of all prisoners convicted in the NSW Superior Courts.

Following the NSW government example, Thomas Nevin photographed men convicted in the Hobart Supreme Court who were housed in the adjoining Hobart Gaol.  Those men who were convicted in regional courts with sentences longer than three months were transferred to Hobart. He took at least two original photographs of the prisoner, on different occasions: the first, the booking shot, was taken of the unshaved prisoner in ordinary or street clothing as soon as convicted; the second was taken fourteen days prior to the prisoner's discharge. Additional prisoner photographs were taken by Nevin at the Port Arthur penitentiary and the Cascades prison for males with the assistance of his younger brother Constable John Nevin in the unusual circumstance of the transfer of 103 prisoners from the Port Arthur prison to the Hobart Gaol at the request of the Parliament in 1873.



Above: One of earliest tenders taken up by Nevin at the Office of the Superintendent of Police
for provision of police gazette photographs, The Mercury 23 December 1872.

The photographs (there are 300+ extant of Tasmanian "convicts") were taken ¾ size, and twenty duplicates were made for circulation to local and intercolonial authorities. A dozen or so unmounted prints from Nevin's original negatives survive from his commission in the 1870s, and are held at the QVMAG, but the majority survive as vignettes mounted in oval carte-de-visite format, typical of Nevin's commercial studio portraiture in the decade 1870-1880 (held at the NLA, QVMAG, TMAG, SLNSW Mitchell Library, and in private collections). The CDV's were formatted to fit onto the prisoner's record sheet. The originals were held at the Office of Inspector of Police, at the Hobart Town Hall where Thomas Nevin was appointed to a full-time position with residency in 1875.

DARLINGHURST GAOL 1871



Margaret Greenwood, 1875, photographed at the Darlinghurst Gaol NSW
NSW State Records Archives

NSW State Records Archives Investigator - Series Detail
Series number: 2138
Title: Photographic Description Books [Darlinghurst Gaol]
Start date: by 12 Aug 1871
End date: by 13 Jul 1914
Contents start date:  12 Aug 1871
Contents end date:  13 Jul 1914
Descriptive note:

Authorisation
The taking of prisoner 'portraits' was formally authorised to be carried out at Darlinghurst Gaol by a memo from Harold Maclean (Inspector of Prisons) to the Principal Gaoler on 5 August 1871 (1). This document noted:

Authority to introduce Photography
Portraits will be taken of all prisoners convicted at the Superior Courts, except those convicted of trifling misdemeanours and who do not belong to the Criminal Class.

Portraits will also be taken of prisoners summarily convicted where the Police require it, or the Principal Gaoler thinks it desirable to secure a perfect description.

These portraits will be photographed after conviction and fourteen (or more) days prior to discharge, in private clothing where practicable.

Any prisoner refusing or by his or her behaviour putting obstacles in the way of securing a proper likeness will be brought before the Visiting Justice for disobedience and the case reported to the Inspector of Prisons with a view to the stoppage of remission indulgences and gratuities. .

The figures are to be taken ¾ size unless in exceptional cases where there may be reason for taking them in full. The negatives will be numbered to correspond with the Photographic Register, and carefully packed away under lock and key.

Twenty five copies of each portrait are to be printed and furnished to the Inspector General of Police through this Office.

Harold Maclean
Inspector of Prisons
BC 5:8:71

The Principal Gaoler
A slightly earlier general order from the Acting Inspector of Prisons on 27 July 1871 (2) dealt with some of the practical aspects of implementing photography of prisoners:

Prisoners to be photographed
Prisoners convicted at the Superior Courts and being forwarded to serve their Sentences in Darlinghurst Gaol, or to Darlinghurst Gaol en route to Berrima or other prisons, will not be shaved and their private clothing will be sent with them in order that they might be photographed as nearly as practicable in their ordinary appearance.
Harold Maclean
Actg Inspr of Prisons
The Gaolers
Parramatta
Mudgee
Windsor

The photographing of prisoners appears to have been confined to Darlinghurst Gaol (the principal prison in the Colony) until the mid-1870s, after which it began to be introduced at the major country gaols. On 15 February 1877, a general order was sent to Berrima and Goulburn Gaols advising that when a prisoner who had been photographed was transferred to another gaol, a copy of his photograph, mounted on the usual form, was to be attached to his papers. (3)

Description
In addition to at least one photograph of each prisoner, this series contains the following information: number, prisoners’ name, aliases, date when portrait was taken, native place, year of birth, details of arrival in the colony - ship and year of arrival, trade or occupation, religion, degree of education, height, weight (on committal, on discharge), colour of hair, colour of eyes, marks or special features, number of previous portrait, where and when tried, offence, sentence, remarks, and details of previous convictions (where and when, offence and sentence).

There appears to have been one face-on photograph per individual until about June 1894 when there was both a face-on and a side-on photograph per individual.

Format
While the information recorded varied little over time, there was some variation in the format of the records, particularly in the first eight years (August 1871 to April/May 1879). For this period, the primary and more complete sequence of records was kept in a double-page format, with the descriptive information recorded (with photographs) on the left hand page, and criminal history/previous convictions on the right-hand side. The original intention appears to have been to have two photographs of each prisoner, on arrival and discharge. This seems to have been done only occasionally (mainly in the first few years of the system).

An incomplete sequence of records in a single-page format has also survived as part of this series, covering the period August 1871 to March 1875. This is particularly important, as it includes some records for periods where there are gaps in the surviving primary sequence of records (particularly for the period August 1871 to February 1872, and November 1872 to October 1873).

From April/May 1879 onwards, the single page format became the standard for these records.
For the period July 1904 to July 1914, there is a parallel set of records for Darlinghurst at NRS 1942 (this series also contains records for the other NSW gaols).

Custody History
[11/2205] was an archival estray received from Mr F. Rogers of the Hastings District Historical Society.
Endnotes
1. NRS 1824, 4/6478, p.496, no.71/2676.
2. NRS 1834, 5/1826, p.144, no.71/31.
3. NRS 2179, 5/1823, p.334.
Home location: These records are held at Western Sydney Records Centre

PENTRIDGE PRISON 1874



Launceston Examiner22 Aug 1874

TRANSCRIPT

VICTORIA. The system of taking photographic likenesses of prisoners at the Pentridge Stockade is stated to have proved of great assistance to the police department in detecting crime. The system was commenced at Pentridge about two years ago, and since then one of the officials who had a slight knowledge of the art, with the assistance of a prisoner has taken nearly 7000 pictures, duplicates of which have been sent to all parts of this and the adjacent colonies. But it has been considered rather too expensive, to employ an official entirely for the purpose, and as constant employment could not be provided in the future, a photographer has lately been appointed, who will visit the stockade twice in the week, and the hulks at Williamstown once. -- Argus. Launceston Examiner 22 Aug 1874
The Victorian government employed a commercial photographer to visit the Pentridge prison twice weekly, and to visit the hulks moored at Williamstown once a week. The photographer conventionally accredited as the Pentridge photographer for more than twenty years is Charles Nettleton (1826-1902) - for example, this statement which appears in an online biography at the ADB:

He was police photographer for over twenty-five years and his portrait of Ned Kelly, of which one print is still extant, is claimed to be the only genuine photograph of the outlaw.

Yet Nettleton's name does not appear in the Victorian Gazette as a photographic contractor to any  government department during the entire period of the 1870s and 1880s. His name only appears on these dates:

1863: Partnership dissolved with John Calder



Victorian Government Gazette 16 June 1863

1879: Patent for photogravure



Victorian Government Gazette 10 April 1879

1886: Insolvency again



Victorian Government Gazette 9 April 1886

This omission was not unusual when commercial photographers operated on commission. The only photographers listed in the Victorian Gazette up until 1875 were Batchelder and O'Neill, who supplied the Department of Lands and Survey with photographic chemicals and materials. The contract dated 17th March, 1865, does not indicate they these two photographers were the ones who would eventually use the  chemicals in government service.

1865: Batchelder and O'Neill contract



Victorian Government Gazette 17 March 1865

1875: Felton, Grimawade, and Co.
This large concern supplied not just photographic materials to the General Stores of the Victorian government; they also supplied medicines etc, all of which were gazetted simply as "Contingencies 1875-76". Likewise, photographic chemicals and materials supplied by tender and used by Thomas Nevin in Tasmania from 1872 onwards were listed in Government stores simply as Supplies, Hobart City Corporation and Office of the Inspector of Police.





Victorian Government Gazette 23 April 1875

The list of chemicals here shows the extent to which the Victorian Government was using documentary photography by 1875. But again, no photographer's contract to the Prisons Department or Office of Inspector of Police was gazetted until John Noone's name was gazetted in August 1881.



Victorian Government Gazette 23 April 1875



Victorian Gazette 6 August 1881
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