Thursday, August 9, 2007

Young man with stereograph viewer

Who is this? A photographer? It isn't a portrait of Thomas Nevin, nor is this young man minus a beard Thomas' younger brother Jack Nevin. But it is a portrait of a serious young man with a love of cameras apparently, given his casual pose leaning on a stereograph viewer , which was taken by Thomas Nevin at his studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town.



Portrait of young man with stereograph viewer by Thomas Nevin ca. 1873,
and verso with Nevin's Royal Arms government stamp
Scans courtesy of  © The Private Collection of John and Robyn McCullagh 2006. ARR.


The photograph can be fairly accurately dated from 1873, as the verso bears the government Royal Arms insignia of the lion and unicorn rampant which appeared on official prison documents such as The Tasmanian Prison Act 1868: Consolidation and Amendation of the Tasmanian Prison Act 1868, on the seal of the Tasmanian Supreme Court, and as the banner for the weekly police gazettes printed by James Barnard. This type of stamp was printed specifically for Thomas Nevin's commission as police and prisons photographer working in the City and Supreme Courts, at the Hobart Gaol and at the Town Hall Municipal Police Office between 1873 and 1876 while still operating a commercial studio. After 1876, the date of his full-time civil service with the Colonial Government, the use of his studio stamp on the verso of prisoner photographs was unnecessary.

This young man may have been one Thomas Nevin's assistants or his apprentice William Ross who resided next to the studio's glass house in the side laneway, listed as 138½ Elzabeth Street Hobart Town in the Hobart Gazette, while Nevin's address was listed as 140 Elizabeth St. Ross also traded as a bootmaker.

The apparatus pictured in the photograph is a double lens stereograph viewer. A box of this size could hold a large number of stereocards; turning the wooden handle (underneath the young man's right hand) changed the card being viewed. The same big box stereograph viewer appears in several portraits of Nevin's clients, e.g. a Lodge Brother or Mason in full regalia (Lucy Bachelor Collection, here on this site), and in one of Nevin's self-portraits.

The studio furnishings in this carte appear in many of Nevin's portraits: the griffin or phoenix motif in the legs of the occasional table; the low upholstered chair covered with a protective material; the mandatory curtain draped down one side of the image as a conventional framing device; and the diamond and chain link patterned carpet.

Overall, this image of a well-dressed and groomed young man with dreamy eyes testifies to the middle class status of photographers in the 1870s in Hobart Town.

This carte-de-visite has been heavily daubed with the same palette as another taken by Nevin of a young man in a short jacket and blueberry-tinted necktie standing next to mulberry-tinted curtains, also from The McCullagh Collection. At least the diamond-patterned carpet was spared the big red blobs of the latter. Given the very amateur nature of the tinting in these two examples from The McCullagh Collection compared with the delicate tinting in Nevin's portraits of his wife Elizabeth Rachel Day and sister Mary Ann in The Nevin Family Collections, it may be assumed that the heavy tinting was performed by subsequent generations of owners of these two cartes.



Scans courtesy of © The McCullagh Collection 2006. ARR.