Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Prisoner Bewley TUCK can speak for himself


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)

Dark Tourism and Heritage Fictions
Carolyn Strange in this article points to the fictionalisation of the past as the dominant modality of museological practice at the Port Arthur Historic Site. Convict Bewley Tuck's fictive "voice-over" tale stands in for a new "interpretative" identity between museum and tourist. Thomas Nevin's photograph of Tuck (ca. 1870), however, is not a construct but an artefact of the convict's reality as both convict and photographer experienced it. A documentary original photograph is not the same thing at all as a contemporary "interpretation" of it. As one visitor remarked to Strange on leaving the display, "I prefer the real thing."

Article by Carolyn Strange [pdf]

"Proceeding off from the workers’ display area is a room set aside for a slide show that combines 1860s photographic images of real convicts with voice-over fictional recollections of real-life convict Bewley Tuck. Inspired by the experiences of this man, who served sentences at Port Arthur between the 1830s and 1870s, the script is a salty tale about the penal regime and the changes at the site (particularly the introduction of the separate silent prison) in the post 1840s era. Visitors can learn more about the post-convict period (the 1880s to the present) if they move beyond this bare chamber to a story board area that explains how Port Arthur was transformed from a somewhat shameful curiosity into a carefully preserved historical site vying for world heritage status."

From ‘Place of Misery’ to ‘Lottery of Life’: Interpreting Port Arthur’s Past by Carolyn Strange © Open Museum Journal Volume 2: Unsavoury histories, August 2000

Thomas J. Nevin and prints from his glass negatives
Of the three hundred and fifty (350) or so extant photographs taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin of Tasmanian prisoners in the 1870s which were printed unmounted and/or in an oval mount for prison records, this unmounted print of Bewley Tuck (above) is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), Hobart.

At least forty more unmounted photographs of prisoners taken by T. J. Nevin in the 1870s which were collated by John Watt Beattie in three panels ca. 1915 are held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with seventy or so cdvs in oval mounts, the remainder of part of more than three hundred in oval mounts which were originally bequeathed  from the estate of convictaria collector and government photographer John Watt Beattie to the QVMAG in the 1930s. When several dozen mounted and unmounted cdvs were removed from Beattie’s original collection at the QVMAG and taken down to the Port Arthur prison heritage site for an exhibition as part of the Port Arthur Conservation Project in 1983, they were not returned to the QVMAG. They were deposited instead at the TMAG .

Given the scratches, crossed out inscriptions and general damage, the glass negative from which this print was made would have been used extensively to reprint the prisoner's photograph for prison records as each offense and charge was recorded. The print, unmounted such as this one, would have been pasted to his rap sheet, and more would have been reprinted from the original glass plate several times over the prisoner's long criminal career. Examples of both types of prisoner mugshots - mounted and unmounted - attached to prisoners' rap sheets are held at the Archives Office of Tasmania in prison photo books.

The QVMAG holds the mounted carte-de-visite of this prisoner Bewley Tuck, printed from the one and only sitting with police photographer Thomas J. Nevin, in 1875 at the Hobart Gaol. The QVMAG list (acquired here in 2005) showed a total of 199 mugshots, but only 72 were physically held  there when the list was devised. A total of 127 mugshots were missing by 2005. Two mugshots in this sequence – numbers 198 and 200 of prisoners James Mullens and William Smith, each bearing verso Nevin’s government contractor Royal insignia studio stamp – were deposited at the State Library of NSW, Mitchell collection (SLNSW PBX 6274) ca. 1907, among a dozen more which do not bear the numbering on recto.

The Port Arthur Conservation Project 1983, Elspeth Wishart
Notes from the QVMAG catalogue Q1985: P: 0068
Cdv and uncut print of prisoner Bewley Tuck.

Elspeth Wishart (an employee perpetuating the Boyd misattribution formerly at the QVMAG and now at the TMAG)  contrived the absurd and groundless photographer attribution to the commandant A. H. Boyd during this 1983 exhibition at Port Arthur as a result of a socially aspirational comment by a descendant of Boyd. It was hearsay, and remains nothing more than vexatious misinformation.
See these articles:

One man, two names, one image

In addition to a paper copy of Nevin's photograph of Bewley Tuck (seen in this webshot, 2005), the Archives Office of Tasmania holds two relevant convict records.

Tuck John
04 Aug 1831
Argyle 18 Mar 1831

Tuck Bewley
16 May 1833
Lotus 13 Dec 1832

Two versions exist of the one photograph taken of a convict who was labelled JOHN TUCK on the print from Nevin's original glass plate, and BEWLEY TUCK on the carte-de-visite mounted in an oval frame. Were they one and the same person, or two different men? The Archives Office of Tasmania holds a record for each name, with different transportation dates and physical descriptions, so they must have been two different men, so why is there just one image of the same man, identified as John Tuck on a glass negative, and Bewley Tuck on the carte printed from the negative?

The image of the man himself on the glass negative print with the name John Tuck scratched on it is the original photograph taken by Thomas Nevin at the Hobart Gaol of Bewley Tuck, photographed in the week ending 5th May, 1875, the date of Bewley Tuck's discharge. He had served 15 years for the "attempt to commit unnatural offence" and was 65 years old when he was discharged.

bewley Tuck discharged May 1875

Bewley Tuck's discharge, page 72 of the police gazette,
May 1-5, 1875

Although the item held now in a public collection is catalogued as the 1870s original, it may in fact be a later reproduction of Nevin's 1875 glass negative, developed again as a lantern slide by John Watt Beattie in the 1900s for use in his lectures on Tasmanian history.  Images of Tasmanian convicts were also used in lectures on physiognomy delivered by a phrenologist, Mr Sheridan. The Mercury reported his lecture on 30 March 1892 had focused on the criminal type, classifications within the type, and the use of composite photography in phrenology.
There were two great types of criminals-the normal criminal, as already mentioned, and the epileptic.

Mr Sheridan on the criminal type portrayed by phrenology
The Mercury 30 March 1892

If Beattie had made a new lantern slide from the negative of Nevin's original, this may account for the name "John Tuck" appearing on one side of the frame, and another name scratched out appearing on the other side. It is likely therefore to be an error by later copyists such as Beattie and Searle ca. 1915, who reproduced these convict images as "Types of Convicts - Official Prison Photographs from Port Arthur", to be sold as tourist tokens in Beattie's convictaria shop and museum. A few more of these later reproductions from the original glass negative of prisoners Rosetta, Meaghers, and Lee, attributed to Beattie & Searle ca. 1916, are held at the NLA,  and the QVMAG holds three panels totalling 40 unmounted prints devised by Beattie and Searle, together with individual cdvs in oval mounts, mostly of the same prisoner.

Thomas Nevin photographed men who were absconders, men who were arrested on suspicion and charged, men arraigned in the Supreme Court and discharged from the Mayor's Court on a regular basis at the Hobart Gaol. When he photographed this man in May 1875, Tuck was known to his gaolers only as Bewley Tuck. His name appeared only once in the weekly police gazettes, called Tasmania -Reports of Crime for Police Information, between 1871 and 1875, and that one occasion was his discharge.

Thomas Nevin photographed Bewley Tuck once, and once only, providing the prison and police authorities with at least four duplicates from his negative for future police reference, including the print pasted onto the convict's record sheet. The image mounted or unmounted, was a standard police record mugshot, small enough to fit onto the paper record with room for written details.

It's up to the reader to decide which physical description of the two men fits the image, keeping in mind that these convict records are transportation records of arrival and muster were written no later than 1853, and the photograph by T. J. Nevin was taken in 1875. That is a difference of over 40 years, and both of the written records indicate that John Tuck and Bewley Tuck were 18 years old when transported. The discharge details for Bewley Tuck in 1875 give his age at 65 yrs, and an anchor tattoo on back of left hand.

The "punctum" - the detail that grabs the eye - and informs a viewer's interpretation, may be in the image itself, or in the written description, for example, the "long scar below left cheek bone" in John Tuck's record. In the negative image, it's below the right cheek bone, or is it?

The glass negative with "John Tuck" written down the right side.

What has been scratched out on the left?

The carte on the left bears the number "3". Its mirror version on the right shows the image as it appeared on the original negative. The mirror version, straightened, shows that there was just one image of this man, captured first on glass, then printed as both an unmounted paper print, and then mounted in an oval frame as a cdv.

Above: verso and recto of same image in cdv format in the QVMAG database. Notice that it is number 3 in the series copied at the QVMAG ca. 1985 for distribution to other public institutions (AOT, NLA, TMAG): the first,  number 1 being of prisoner Nutt aka White, and number 2 being Wm Yeomans (also at NLA as a mounted cdv). None of these first three cartes copied from the QVMAG Beattie collections, from which Nevin's 1870s original negatives and vignetted duplicates were drawn, has the inscriptions on verso "Taken at Port Arthur 1874". See this article here: Aliases, Copies and Misattribution.

Records for Bewley Tuck

Tuck, Bewley
Convict No: 71572
Voyage Ship: Lotus
Voyage No: 104
Arrival Date: 16 May 1833
Departure Date: 13 Dec 1832
Departure Port: Portsmouth
Conduct Record: CON94/1/ p202, CON31/1/43, CON37/1/9 p5285
Muster Roll:
Appropriation List: CON27/1/6, CSO1/1/652 14642, MM33/6
Other Records:
Indent: MM33/2
Description List: CON18/1/13 p107

Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON18-1-13 Image 57


Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON31-1-43 image 98

Records for John Tuck

AOT: Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON18-1-3
Digital image no. 50


Convict Details
Tuck, John
Convict No: 71580
Voyage Ship: Argyle
Voyage No: 87
Arrival Date: 04 Aug 1831
Departure Date: 18 Mar 1831
Departure Port: Plymouth
Conduct Record: CON31/1/43
Muster Roll:
Appropriation List: CON27/1/5, MM33/6
Other Records:
Indent: CON14/1/2
Description List: CON18/1/3 p90

RELATED POSTS main weblog

Monday, April 21, 2008

Photographers Thomas Nevin and Robert Smith, Hobart Tasmania, 1867-1868

Thomas J. NEVIN & Robert SMITH, 'Nevin & Smith' 1867-1868
Mrs Esther MATHER and the coloured portraits
Robert SMITH at Goulburn NSW
ANSON Bros albums 1890

The firm of Nevin & Smith stamps and label 1867-1868
Robert Smith (n.d.) and Thomas J. Nevin established their partnership with the name 'Nevin & Smith' soon after Thomas Nevin acquired the lease of the studio, the stock and glass house at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town on Alfred Bock's insolvency in 1865 and departure in 1867. The partnership with Robert Smith was brief, lasting less than two years. It was dissolved by Nevin's family solicitor and mentor, the Hon. W. R. Giblin, in February 1868.

Robert Smith may have been an independent photographer with his own studio in Hobart prior to his partnership with Thomas J. Nevin at Alfred Bock's former studio. By about 1863, according to Mrs Esther Mather (1895-1872), a photographer she calls simply "Smith" was providing the citizens of Hobart Town with coloured photographs. In this letter to her step-son, dated October 1865, she refers briefly to a coloured portrait taken at Smiths, possibly a few years earlier, which compared less favourably with the one taken that day of her brother at Charles A. Woolley's studio:

Mrs Mather, letter 1865
Mrs Mather, letter 1865

[Page 1]
My dear Francis,
Thou wilt think me long in not not [sic] sending the likeness I promised but it has not been for want of thought about thee but I have been so very much engaged with one thing or another that I have hardly had time to write a few lines but thou wilt be better off in the end for I only met up with my Brother to day [sic] which I also enclose Its from Wooleys [sic] and I consider it a very good # one [superscript inserted] probably more like him now than the coloured ones from Smiths I dont remember having given George one but if I have not I will get one for [Page 2] Him and send It...
Photos © KLW NFC 2009 ARR
Source: Morris Miller Library, University of Tasmania Special Collections
Ref: M.19/70:
Notes: "The letter is from the Mather family papers and is from Esther Mather to her [step] grandson, Joseph Francis Mather, in which she makes reference of her likeness from Woolleys being better than the coloured ones from Smiths. It is dated 1.8. 1865"

On Robert Smith's departure to Goulburn, NSW, where he opened a small photographic studio before taking up farming and politics, Thomas Nevin pasted the verso of a few more photographs with the label bearing their name, but with Smith's name struck through, and the word "Late" added.

Two studio stamps and one label have survived from their brief partnership. The first stamp featuring the Prince of Wales' blazon of three feathers and a coronet, banded with the German "ICH DIEN" (I Serve) dates from the visit to Hobart of Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria, in late 1867 on his first command, H.M.S. Galatea.

This carte-de-visite of two unidentified children may have been intended for inclusion in an album of photographic prints depicting the children of Tasmania which was gifted to Prince Alfred during his visit to Hobart before he returned to Sydney in January 1868 where he was to survive an assassination attempt weeks later (at Clontarf, March 1868).

Title: [Studio portrait of two children] [picture] / Nevin & Smith.
Access/Copyright: Reproduction rights: State Library of Victoria
Accession number(s):H2005.34/2004, H2005.34/2004A

Hand-tinted cdv of young man with wispy beard in check coat
Photographers: Nevin & Smith 1868
Scan courtesy of © The Liam Peters Collection 2010.

This photograph, a delicately coloured carte-de-visite portrait of an unidentified bearded man in semi-profile, wearing a summer check-pattern jacket, which is printed verso with the rare Nevin & Smith stamp bearing the Prince of Wales' blazon of three feathers and coronet, banded with the motto "ICH DIEN" (I Serve), was also taken in late 1867 during Prince Alfred's visit to Hobart.

Thomas J. Nevin photographed his future wife Elizabeth Rachel Day (1847-1914) in the late 1860s; they married in July 1871 at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley (Tasmania). He took this photograph of his fiancée when she was barely out of her teens, circa 1867-8, while operating as the firm, Nevin & Smith. Although a personal memento in many respects, and as such, surprisingly stamped verso, it may have been intended for circulation to a large circle of friends, such as the group featured in the Nevin & Smith stereograph of a group (below) celebrating a special occasion.

Elizabeth Rachel Day, married Thomas Nevin in 1871
Taken by Thomas Nevin at Nevin & Smith (late Bock's) ca. 1867-8
140, Elizabeth Street Hobart Town
Full-length portrait, carte-de-visite
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collection ARR. Watermarked.

The stereograph below of a large group of men and women in formal wear, some seated on the grass, many more dancing in a circle close to the River Derwent, was taken about the same time as the full-length portrait of Elizabeth Rachel Day. She wore a white dress, a dark topcoat and white hat for the studio portrait, and many women in the outdoor stereograph wore the same outfit on this day. It was taken at Rosny (Hobart) to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday, May 27th, 1868, and pasted verso with Nevin & Smith's advertising label for commercial reproduction and distribution.

Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (online catalogue 2006)
"Tasmanian Views from Nevin & Smith .... plus Tombstones copied, Terms - Cheap!"
REF: Q1994.56.20.1
MEDIUM: Paper and printing ink,
MAKER: Nevin & Smith [Artist];
DATE: 1860s
DESCRIPTION : Label from the back of Q1994.56.20 for photographers Nevin & Smith, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobarton
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: On back a pink label: Tasmanian views/ from/ Nevin & Smith,/ Photographers,/ 140, Elizabeth St., Hobarton./ Stereoscopic and Album Portraits/ Views Photographed./ Viiews of Residences, Tombstones copied, Terms —Cheap!

This stereograph (below) of a house bears a yellow rather than pink Nevin & Smith label, with Smith's name struck through, the word "Late" superimposed, and the plural "s" on the word "Photographers" crossed out. It was taken before Smith's departure from the partnership in February 1868 but reprinted soon after. From 1869, Nevin replaced this label with a blind stamp impress on the recto of outdoor stereographs with the simple wording "T. Nevin Photo". Different designs of stamps, labels and verso inscriptions used by Thomas Nevin to date number at least eight.

Unlike another single image carte-de-visite photograph of a large single-storey house on a hill taken by Nevin of his parents' family home at Kangaroo Valley (see pinkish cdv below), this stereograph of a house bears his commercial label (Smith's name struck through) pasted verso, and was therefore intended for sale to clients. The subject of the photograph might possibly represent the back door of his parents' house, but it more likely represents another Kangaroo Valley house built to a similar architectural template, distinguished from his parents' house by a blue stone side wall behind the trees. Some tinting of the grass was attempted but otherwise abandoned, suggesting a rejected copy.

Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (online catalogue 2006)
REF: Q16826.9
ITEM NAME: photograph:
MEDIUM: albumen silver print sepia toned stereoscope,
MAKER: T Nevin [Photographer];
TITLE: 'Tasmanian Views.'
DATE: 1870c
DESCRIPTION : No information relative to title of his images. This one, of a house or maybe a school.
INSCRIPTIONS & MARKS: (On bacK) Tas. Views from Nevin & Smith (Late) Photographers (s crossed out) 140 Elizabeth Street. Steroscopic and Album Portraits Views Photographed. Views of Residences, Tombstones copied, Terms:-Cheap!

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery holds fifty or more of stereographs by Thomas Nevin or T. J. Nevin; Nevin & Smith; and Clifford (Samuel) & Nevin, some stamped verso, some inscribed verso and some blank, in addition to the fifty (50) or so photographs of Tasmanian prisoners (labelled as convicts) taken by Nevin on government contract in the 1870s. Many of the stereographs have survived in barely fair condition, not simply because these early examples of his work were printed on absorbent salt paper which rendered the image fuzzy over time, they were salvaged from private and public archive locations where conditions were less than optimal. Wherever two very similar photographs have survived, one with Thomas Nevin's stamp or inscription, one without, the following circumstances of their production have to be considered:

1. duplicates of a stamped original chosen for commercial profit were not routinely stamped but simply supplied to the client as a copy.

2. duplicates of an original or another very similar original showing the same subject and location but differing in minor details of pose etc were not stamped, especially photographs taken for immediate use by friends, family or even government officials well-known to the photographer.

3. one original photograph bearing a specimen studio stamp was submitted to the Customs and Patent Office to register copyright of that particular stamp for one year, or for a limited quantity to be produced for a specified fee. Nevin covered the registration of seven different stamps from 1865 to 1888

4. some originals were flawed at the moment of capture, or rendered useless during printing and colouring, and so not stamped or circulated but nonetheless retained by the studio, which then ensured a life beyond the photographer's control in the hands of collectors.

5. Many stock commercial negatives by Nevin were acquired and reproduced by Samuel Clifford until Clifford's retirement in 1878. The Anson Brothers acquired Nevin's, Clifford's and even Baily's negatives (the latter through theft) and reproduced them with their own studio stamps.

Despite such caveats which segue into disputes about attribution, it must be remembered that Thomas Nevin had begun professional photography at his New Town studio by 1864 and with Alfred Bock by 1865. By 1867 he was in commercial production at Bock's former studio, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart, with partner Robert Smith until 1868, soon afterwards joining friends and colleagues Samuel Clifford and Henry Hall Baily on travelling excursions, as well as taking commissions as government contractor for the colonial government's Lands Department, the Hobart City Corporation, the Municipal Police Office, and the New Town Territorial Police, retiring from professional photography after twenty-five years only at the birth of his last child, Albert, in 1888.

The cottage that Thomas Nevin's father, John Nevin, built at Kangaroo Valley Tasmania
"T. J. Nevin Photo" inscribed on verso, ca. 1868.
From © KLW NFC Imprint & The Liam Peters Collection 2010.

Nevin and Smith dissolution 26 Feb 1868

Dissolution notice of Nevin & Smith partnership, Mercury,26 February 1868

This dissolution notice was published in the Hobart Mercury on 26 February 1868 of the partnership between Robert Smith and Thomas Nevin. William Robert Giblin, later Attorney-General and Premier, was Thomas Nevin's solicitor and witness.

Robert Smith at Goulburn, NSW
Robert Smith opened a small photographic studio in Goulburn (NSW) soon after departing Hobart. Extant examples of his work are rare. This one, a carte-de-visite on a dark mount of a woman taken at the Goulburn studio ca. 1870 appeared recently on eBay (2016).

Carte-de-visite on dark mount of an unidentified woman ca. 1869
Photographer: R. Smith, Artist, Auburn St. Goulburn (NSW)

Verso: Carte-de-visite on dark mount of an unidentified woman ca. 1869
Photographer: R. Smith, Artist, Auburn St. Goulburn (NSW)

Anson Bros. albums

Title: Anson's books of Tasmanian scenes, both north, south and the interior
Creator(s):Anson Bros
Date: 1890?
Description: 1 endpaper : Black/red lettering, 40 X 58 cm.
Related to: In: Picturesque and interesting Tasmania. No. 1
Subjects: Anson Bros, Craw and Ratcliff, Booksellers, Stationers and Fancy
Other titles: Best photographs of Tasmania's world-fames scenery, mountains, lakes, ferns and rocks Endpaper of album
Format: album
Location: Tasmaniana Library
ADRI: AUTAS001125641373

The Anson Brothers acquired the stock in 1878 of both Thomas Nevin and Samuel Clifford; in addition, they reprinted in 1880 - on glass - an Aboriginal portrait taken by Charles A. Woolley in 1866 which is privately held in The McCullagh Collection. They also reproduced Clifford and Nevin's photographs taken in 1873 and 1874 at Port Arthur, printed as an album in 1889 titled Port Arthur Past and Present  held at the State Library of NSW.

Anson Bros. photographic album, Port Arthur Past and Present, held at the SLNSW (1889)
State Library of NSW
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2009

RELATED POSTS main weblog

On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872