The QVMAG, the NLA, Chris Long, and A.H. Boyd

CRONYISM effects on the National Heritage collections

Left:    poster printed of 1870s photographs of Tasmanian prisoners (QVMAG collection,1991)
Right: press notice of 1977 exhibition of T. J. Nevin's prisoner photographs at QVMAG

Letter from the QVMAG 2005
The Queen Victoria and Albert Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG), Launceston, seemed so intent on abrogating the name of Thomas J. Nevin as photographer from any association with its holdings of the "Convicts of Port Arthur" photographs which were exhibited there in 1977 as Nevin's work that in a letter to a Nevin descendant dated 17th November 2005, the technical officer showed considerable confusion and made contradictory and incorrect statements. This is the letter:

The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Dear [name],
Please find enclosed some documentation relating to the convict photograph exhibition that was attributed to Thomas Nevin in 1977. Also enclosed is a list of the convict photographs that include the registration number, the type and content of the photograph, as well as the photographer who is listed as Adolarious Humphrey Boyd. I have highlighted registration number QVM:1985:P:0131 and included a photocopy of the reverse of this image, as it contains the photographic stamp of T.J. Nevin. The photographer of the convict photographs has been listed as Boyd, in accordance with comments made by Chris Long.
We have two photographs in our collection which have the photographer listed as Thomas Nevin. I have enclosed information about QVM:1987:P:0220. The other is QVM:1985:P:0005 that we have discussed via e-mail.
Thank you for your enquiry. Please be in contact if you have any questions.
Danielle Grossman
Technical Officer
Community History Centre

This letter prompted an analysis of the volte face position held by the QVMAG since 1977 with regard to their data bases. The errors in this letter are dealt with summarily here:

There were three photographs in their holdings of T. J. Nevin's photographs bearing his name and/or studio stamp, not two. For example:

A full-length studio portrait of two men, hand-tinted, which is inscribed verso "Clifford & Nevin, Hobart Town", and listed as QVM:1985:P:0005. These two men were clients of T. J. Nevin who were photographed at his Hobart studio before 1876. Samuel Clifford reprinted portraits of Nevin's clients after 1876 when Nevin entered the civil service with the Hobart City Council as Hall and Office Keeper, Hobart Town Tall. It was published in Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (1995:34).

The second catalogue number QVM:1987:P:0220 refers to a photograph by Thomas Nevin titled "View of the Hobart to Launceston coach, 1872, Tasmania" which is stamped verso with his government contractor stamp encircling the Royal Arms insignia. It is a landscape format cdv of Samuel Page's Royal Mail coach, taken for official records.

The third cdv, listed as QVM:1985:P:0131, is a photograph in a buff mount of prisoner William Smith per Gimore (3). This is typcal of the several hundred extant prisoner identification photographs taken by Thomas Nevin for police and prison records,1872-1886.

Above: Recto and verso of photograph of prisoner Wm Smith per Gilmore (3) 
Verso with T. J. Nevin's government contractor stamp printed with the Royal Arms  insignia. 
Carte numbered "199" on recto 
QVMAG Ref: 1985.p.131

Comments by Chris Long 1995
That makes three 1870s photographs bearing the name of Thomas J. Nevin, not two There are many more, of course, not sorted, catalogued or digitised bearing Nevin's stamp in the QVMAG's holdings, neglected or ignored for reasons known only to those involved. Several comments by Chris Long in a letter to Nevin descendants 1984 indicated that the QVMAG holds quite a few photographs by T. J. Nevin:
"Most of his work was commercially commissioned - business premises and commercial products. He photographed the coaches used by Page's coach lines in about 1873."
Chris Long stated on p. 36 of Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory that  there are " a number of convict photographs with the commercial stamp T. J. Nevin" (p. 36). He was in fact referring to the whole collection of more than 140 convicts' photographs at the QVMAG which the curator and researchers attributed to Thomas J. Nevin in 1977.

With reference to statements in the letter from the QVMAG (2005), the only reason for re-attributing their collection of photographs of convicts from T. J. Nevin to A, H, Boyd was based simply on "comments" by Chris Long, in this sentence in their letter  - " ... in accordance with comments by Chris Long". What comments exactly, and has the QVMAG ever investigated their veracity? The source given by the QVMAG is pages 35-36 of the TMAG publication, Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (1995), and in that entry on pp 35-36 the writer Chris Long DOES NOT attribute the Port Arthur photographs to A. H. Boyd.

On page 35, Chris Long said:
The authorship of these photographs is difficult to trace. Cato attributes offical convict photography to 'various studios in Hobart and Launceston ... (Jack Cato 1955:164)'.
The authorship was not difficult to trace. John McPhee, curator of the QVMAG exhibition in 1977, Geoff Stilwell, Special Collections, State Library of Tasmania and Professor Joan Kerr , University of Sydney, had ascertained Thomas J. Nevin as the photographer in preparation for the QVMAG exhibition, 1977. Their considered expertise on this issue was published in Kerr (ed) The Dictionary of Australian artists : painters, sketchers, photographers and engravers to 1870, (1992, pp 568-9). But Chris Long was not familiar with John McPhee at all - his letter to Nevin descendants in 1984 referred to a Carl McPhee, not John McPhee.

The "authorship" comment by Chris Long is a segue into a somewhat arrogant dismissal of Jack Cato's seminal early work The Story of the Camera in Australia, whose publication in 1955 preceded the 1977 exhibition and contains no information on these Tasmanian convict portraits. Long then proceeds to dismiss the possibility of convict photos taken by photographer W.P. Dowling in Launceston (fl. 1859-18740 (also Cato's suggestion p. 165) because it seemed  -
... highly unlikely as the work would have been associated with the establishment at Port Arthur (p.36)
The use of "associated with the establishment at Port Arthur" does not in any way confirm the assumption Chris Long then makes that these Port Arthur convicts were in fact photographed at Port Arthur. Several of the "convict photographs" are inscribed on the verso with the prisoner's name, the date of his transportation and the ship's name. Some also bear the inscription "Taken at Port Arthur, 1874". But Long includes copies of TWO photographs and their versos - one of prisoner Job Smith alias Campbell alias Boodle - which DOES NOT bear the inscription "Taken at Port Arthur, 1874", and another of prisoner Samuel Blore per Lrd Petrie which does bear the familiar "Taken at Port Arthur, 1874". So one of the photographs - Job Smith's - cannot be said to be "associated" with Port Arthur, whatever Long wants to imply by the notion "associated with" And there are many such photographs.

Creating photohistory fiction: the A. H. Boyd furphy
Chris Long's speculation then continues with this curious statement which is now known to be nothing more than hearsay:
A.H. Boyd, Superintendent at Port Arthur from June 1871 to March 1874, was a very keen amateur photographer and is known to have had a room fitted up in his garden as a studio and darkroom.  (p.36)
Where's the source? It appears not here in Chris Long's entry but in a Masters thesis submitted to the ANU by Warwick Reeder. Reeder notes (1995:70) that -
Chris Long was the first to suggest that they [Port Arthur cartes 1874] might have been taken by A.H. Boyd.
Warwick Reeder states clearly in his thesis (1995:69) that the Boyd attribution arose from hearsay about a story circulating at the Port Arthur Historic Site where a Boyd descendant recalled seeing a camera at the Commandant's house:
Boyd's niece, E. M. Hall, nee Giblin, recalls that while Boyd was in charge of Port Arthur, he "had a room fitted up in the garden [of the Commandant's house] and was always on the lookout for sitters, [she being] a proud and constant occupant of the only available chair." (footnote 65, Ibid, Reminiscences of E. M. Hall, Crowther Library, State Library of Tasmania in Glover, Margaret, Report on the physical fabric of Port Arthur, n.d.).
Not only is this a piece of legally inadmissable hearsay, Reeder and Long are seriously proposing that a FICTIONAL children's tale about a holiday at Port Arthur, delivered as a talk to a literary society in 1930 by a niece of Boyd's, E.M. Hall, and extant only in typescript, titled "The Young Explorer" (submitted to the State Library of Tasmania in 1942) can function as an authentic historical document and reference. There is no reference to this children's tale in the cited article by Margaret Glover (1991). The children's tale is not a personal memoir, its author makes no reference to either Boyd by name or to the photographing of prisoners at Port Arthur. It was written by a 62 year old woman in 1930 with the intention of giving her young readers a taste of old Port Arthur. These two "researchers", Chris Long and Warwick Reeder, with nothing to offer apart from this ridiculous "research" are principally responsible for the creation of the Boyd furphy. Clearly their "evidence" is nonsense.

However, having put this "evidence" in place, Chris Long then continues with the citation of three "notes contained in the Mitchell Library's Tasmanian Papers" [Ref:320].

30/7/1873 - 288 photographic glasses sent to Port Arthur
12/8/1873 - 1 case of photographic equipment sent to Port Arthur
2/4/1874 - sent from Port Arthur to A.H. Boyd, Hobart - one photograph stand and one photograph tent.

Investigation at the Mitchell Library (State Library of NSW, Sydney)  ascertained exactly what these "notes" indicate. They are in fact the dates of three way bills or cargo and passenger lists for the delivery of goods to and from government stores at Hobart and Port Arthur on board the government schooner Harriet.

The government schooner Harriet carried hundreds of passengers and tonnes of cargo to and from Hobart and Port Arthur while in service during these years. The names of professional photographers appear frequently on the passenger lists during 1873 and 1874, including Samuel Clifford's and Thomas Nevin's. Private goods were usually listed as simply packages, parcels, or boxes, while government cargo was usually detailed by its contents. The Civil Commandant or his proxy signed against the lists of both types of cargo.

Examination of the three original way bill documents revealed no data that could be used to determine that Boyd was the photographer - or "author" to use the photo historian's misuse of the literary term - of the convicts while Civil Commandant of the Port Arthur prison. Chris Long's is a spurious argument underpinned by nothing more than speculation about the ownership of a photograph stand and tent listed as household goods destined for Hobart on the Harriet's way bill dated 2nd April 1874.

The name of  Boyd appears twice on this particular way bill list against cargo designated as "private", firstly as a general signature against 300 or so items of goods, some of which are identified by the owner's name, eg. "1 Umbrella ... Mr G.B. Walker". The photograph stand and tent are NOT identified by the owner's name.

The second appearance of  (Mrs?)  Boyd's name specifically brackets four items which included "1 child's carriage, 1 package Deer Horns, 1 Hat Box, Leather, 1 package of Buttons [?]". These FOUR items were bracketed as Boyd's personal property, but the photograph stand and tent DO NOT appear here. Therefore, the stand and tent cannot said to be Boyd's personal property: to argue for attribution to Boyd as the photographer of Tasmanian convicts on the basis of unproven ownership of two pieces of photographic equipment, is patently absurd. A cursory glance at the Tasmanian Pioneers Index (AOT) shows hundreds of Boyds alive in Tasmania in the 1870s, and not one of those Boyds has ever been documented as a photographer in their own lifetime or subsequently. Even A. H. Boyd's predecessor in the position of Commandant at Port Arthur, James Boyd (no relation, apparently), who was the owner of stereoscopic equipment auctioned from his house in Battery Point in 1873, has never been documented as either an amateur or skilled professional photographer. Ownership of cameras does not presuppose authorship of photographs.

A.H. Boyd's only connection with Thomas Nevin was through the Attorney-General, William Robert Giblin. Boyd was Giblin's brother-in-law. He married Giblin's sister Henrietta Selina Giblin (b.1839) in 1871. Thomas Nevin photographed W. R. Giblin while contracted as the Hobart prisons and police photographer. Giblin chose Nevin as his photographer for a personal portrait [AOT Ref: NS1013/1971], he also chose Nevin as his official photographer. The photograph stand and tent, far from being Boyd's personal property, would have been returned ultimately to Attorney-General Giblin's care, if they had been used for official purposes, and there is nothing to indicate who used them, when, where or for what purpose.

A. H. Boyd was not even at Port Arthur in April 1874. His tenure as Commandant terminated in December 1873 under allegations of corruption and nepotism levelled at his brother-in-law Attorney-General W.R. Giblin in the Parliament through June and July 1873. A. H. Boyd was a reviled individual whose bullying of employees attracted extensive comment in the Hobart Mercury over the period of his tenure as Superintendent of the Orphan School from which he was dismissed for misogyny in 1865; as Civil Commandant at Port Arthur  from which he was forced to resign prematurely in December 1873; and lastly as Superintendent of Paupers at the Cascades Invalid Depot. He pleaded for a pension from the government to no avail, and died prematurely from a fall from a horse while drunk. His obituary makes no mention of photography, nor is there any official document which associates A. H. Boyd with the provision of photographs specifically taken by him of prisoners. Further, Boyd's descendants have not proffered one photograph in their family collection to support their claim he took photographs despite five decades of opportunity since this issue arose.

The government schooner Harriet's way bills for the remainder of 1874 detail Dr Coverdale's journeys several times a month to Hobart accompanying groups of prisoners on their way to prisons in Hobart, as the process of closing down Port Arthur continued. Most of the prisoners returned from Port Arthur to Hobart had been sent there in 1871 at the discretion of the Hobart Gaol Sheriff Thomas Reidy. Sixty had already returned to Hobart by July 15th 1873, noted by Giblin and tabled in Parliament  on that date, July 15, 1873. The remaining 49 on the list tabled in Parliament on that date were back in Hobart by October 1873. On their arrival back in Hobart, the prisoner was bathed, shaved and clothed in standard gaol issue which included a black leathern cap. Two photographs by Nevin of prisoners wearing this cap are held at the Mitchell Library, NSW, stamped verso with his government contractor warrant. The prisoners' records were updated with a photograph taken by T. J. Nevin, the only contracted commercial  photographer to provide this service. His commission was paid out by Treasury, and appeared in the 1874 documents pertaining to expenses for the year 1873. T. J. Nevin had already photographed some of these men at their Supreme Court trials from February 1872 at the adjoining Supreme Court.

The fact that no government documents such as these were sought and sourced by Chris Long or Warwick Reeder pertaining to  the prisoners' photographs is indicative of the problems art-trained photo historians bring to attribution issues.

Aesthetic judgement and personal taste also cloud Chris Long's "comments". Because he judges the nature of the convicts' poses" to be "amateurish" he speculates that -
"... it is quite possible that Boyd may have been the photographer."
But A. H. Boyd was NOT a photographer. Chris Long has not established here or anywhere else that Boyd took a single photograph. As Kerr and Stilwell stated in 1992 (p. 568),

" ... no photographs by Boyd are known."

Government contractor Thomas J. Nevin
T. J. Nevin, however, does receive accreditation by Chris Long for "a number of convict photographs" bearing his "commercial stamp "T. J. Nevin". (p.36)

The stamp Thomas J. Nevin used was not his commercial stamp, it was in fact printed for him as government contractor with the seal of the Royal Arms insignia, but Chris Long had not personally inspected it so had not understood its purport. As Chris Long says, his "belief" about Boyd was based on "an interpretation of the known facts" but the circumstantial "facts" he has established are simply these: some photographic materials were listed as cargo for Port Arthur in 1873. A photograph stand and tent were returned to Hobart on 2nd April 1874. Boyd's supposed "ownership" of a stand and tent is all that Chris Long offers as argument for a Boyd attribution. In itself, it is indeed a slender argument. As unproven, in any case, it is seriously nonsensical.

The other "fact" which Long believes is his own creation of a darkroom belonging to the Commandant, also derived from the children's tale by the Boyd descendant. The "room" which the child narrator mentions in the FICTIONAL children's tale  has become a "darkroom" in Chris Long's imagination. He says:
It is highly likely that the photographs were taken at Port Arthur, and highly unlikely that there would have been a darkroom there apart from the commandant's own. (p.36)

Above: page 36 of Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (Long, 1995)

"Belief" and "interpretation" do not constitute evidence. In personal communication with Nevin descendants in 2005, Chris Long stated that he "never said Nevin was not the photographer".

Cronyism at the National Library of Australia
So, why has the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery set about so assiduously to suppress Thomas Nevin's attribution as photographer of their holdings of Tasmanian convict photographs?

Their ill-considered decision was based on a misreading of Chris Long's "comments", as the letter dated 2005 above indicates. It would seem, however, that the QVMAG and particularly the National Library of Australia are implicated in cronyism.

A concerted effort by Chris Long, and particularly by Warwick Reeder has influenced these institutions into promoting the A. H. Boyd attribution, either through misplaced trust or opportunism. Clearly, recapitulation by both Chris Long and Warwick Reeder is difficult while their error of judgement regarding A. H. Boyd remains in print. Warwick Reeder, in particular, has used his (former) collegiate status as valuer to influence Pictorial staff at the NLA. Why? Because he circulated copies his Master of Letters sub-thesis - a student essay, a minor event in academic terms - to the Mitchell Library NSW and to the National Library of Australia, and he is now aware of its major flaws, unsubstantiated claims, and errors concerning Thomas J . Nevin's family life and professional career.

Far from wishing to issue or attach statements of errata to the thesis, Warwick Reeder would rather see the national heritage compromised than his own "reputation". He would rather see Thomas J. Nevin's name written out of the "official records" than his own name (as stated in so many words in an email to a Nevin descendant). Cronyism is a form of corruption. Compromising historical fact, and the national heritage, is the way the future will remember these public servants in public institutions, who seem to overlook the basic fact of their existence - they are servants of the public. Warwick Reeder's investment extends deeper: he is a self-publisher.

So one reason at least for the National Library of Australia's change of attribution from T. J. Nevin to A. H. Boyd this year, 2007, "on the basis of research by Julia Clark" has become apparent. It would seem at first that the NLA had been swayed by a confused and error-ridden essay containing deliberate obfuscations about Nevin, written by Clark at the Port Arthur Historic Site, and acted on it by effectively removing Thomas J. Nevin's long-standing attribution from their digitised holdings of Tasmanian convict photographs. Their revised full-record URLs for the 25 convict portraits displayed this notice between April and August 2007:

"Formerly attributed to Nevin, Thomas J., 1842-ca. 1922. Attribution changed in 2007 to A.H. Boyd on the basis of research by Julia Clark, Manager Interpretations and Collections, Port Arthur. See TRIM R07/44377."

In September 2007, the NLA amended the full record with this statement:

"No photographer name or studio stamp appears on these photographs. It is likely that the photographer was either A.H. Boyd or Thomas J. Nevin. An essay supporting attribution to Boyd, prepared by Julia Clark, Manager Interpretations and Collections, Port Arthur Historic Site, is on file (TRIM R07/44377); copies available on request."

Why leave the reference to such a poorly researched and facticious essay, an essay padded with irrelevant convictism and singularly intent on deceiving the reader? Clark's essay is not bona fide research, she has written it and forwarded it to the NLA with malicious intent. Not one proposition in this entry about Boyd is even plausible. The NLA holds a file of ephemera relating to Nevin and their holdings of the Tasmanian convict cartes, cited as:

Record Id: 41137628 (Australian Library Collections)
Nevin, T. J. : photography related ephemera material collected by the National Library of Australia].
Description:1 folder of miscellaneous pieces.
Series:Australian photographer files
Contents:File contains material such as accession sheets, listings of works biographical material and correspondence related to convict portraits.
Subjects: Nevin, Thomas J., 1842-1923.Photographers -- Australia.
Libraries that have this item: National Library of Australia. National Library of Australia (ANL) 3821234 Australian photographer files

The essay by Clark has now appeared in this file of Nevin's work created in 1900. Not only is the essay unfinished and unsigned, it violates our copyright of photos and text copied directly from this weblog.  It is a student essay, it contains nothing of significance that has not appeared in publications, so why is it referenced in the NLA catalogue when no other essays by students have received similar treatment across the board? Anything with Clark's name attached is a waste of the reader's time.

Sadly, Ms Clark - who does not even appear on the PAHS website staff lists nor is her position there in any way guaranteed (jeopardised, rather, in the face of this episode) - has not conducted "research" which proves A. H. Boyd as the photographer of the Tasmanian convict/prisoner photographs held at the NLA, some of which are dated by the NLA for 1884 not 1874 and were taken at the Hobart Gaol where Thomas Nevin's brother Constable John Nevin continued with the provision of prisoner ID photographs, nor does she come anywhere near to proving that Boyd ever produced a photograph on any subject. Her deliberate obfuscations are in some cases outright falsifications of statements found in readily available publications and documents (e.g The Mechanical Eye; Intersections). Clark's "research" is also full of Warwick Reeder's claims.

Some examples from Clark's "basis of research" which the NLA has found so compelling concern incorrect statements about the NLA's own history of involvement. This paragraph in the essay from Clark, for example, makes these baseless claims:

Claim A: wrong
Some further confusion has arisen because the NLA holds an album known as the ‘Nevin Album’. I, and it would seem some others, assumed that this was an album that Nevin himself had compiled or that was at least composed of work known to be Nevin’s.
Claim B: wrong
In fact, the NLA compiled it from cdvs in preparation for an exhibition on colonial photography at the National Library in 2003, ‘In a New Light; Australian Photography 1850s-1930s’, curated by Helen Ennis.
Claim C: wrong
In doing so, they were following their attribution of these images to Nevin; the source of this attribution is lost in the mists of time but may have been obtained from QVMAG. This object has now developed a power of its own, such that NLA staff had come to believe that each cdv bore Nevin’s stamp.
Claim D: wrong
However, when the album was taken apart it was discovered that not one of the images bore this stamp. Interestingly, the Curator Helen Ennis attributed the images to Boyd in 2000 in Mirror with a Memory.

None of these claims by Clark observes known and knowable facts. Assumptions made by Clark or by anyone else are not legally tenable evidence. The album of convict cartes held at the NLA was originally sighted by Nevin descendants at the QVMAG Launceston exhibition in 1977, again at the QVMAG as the same and as a complete entity in 1984, and again at the NLA, Canberra in 1996 and in 2000, so far from being a compilation, its integrity up until 2003 had remained complete and intact.

The source of the "Nevin album" as the staff in the Pictorial section of the NLA might have called it - they had a map drawer labelled "Thomas Nevin" containing photographs of NSW prisons which were NOT correctly located or attributed, however - was the QVMAG via the National Gallery of Victoria, deposited by curator John McPhee in the 1980s. The NLA staff stated in 2000 to a visiting Nevin descendant that the versos of the cartes in their "Nevin album" were printed or inscribed, but whether with a photographer's stamp or simply with handwriting, was largely unknown because they had not disassembled the album. A few loose items were paper copies from a much larger donation of prisoners' ID photographs from government estrays deposited at the NLA by Dr Neil Gunson in the 1960s. The 19th century album, however, was not dismantled until Helen Ennis used several cartes for the NLA exhibition "In a New Light: A Love of Order " in 2003, and then her attribution to several cartes was "photographer unknown". This exhibition is online at the NLA.

The cartes that were used in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Mirror with a Memory in 2000 were drawn NOT from the NLA but from the TMAG where Clark had worked, and where she had probably contributed to the Boyd mess of misattribution because her sole knowledge of these cartes was from the Chris Long  vague "belief" and careless speculations about A. H. Boyd in the 1995 TMAG publication, Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (page 36).

This statement in particular - "lost in the mists of time" - from Clark is a measure of the supercilious attitude she has towards her government position at the Port Arthur Historic Site where this so-called "research" is being funded. Far from being lost, Nevin's contractual employment as police and prisons photographer was common knowledge in the 19th century. In the early 20th century, his work was valued to the extant that his photographs of "convicts" were salvaged, copied and sold to tourists by later photographers such as John Watt Beattie and Edward Searle at Beattie's "Port Arhur Museum" located in Murray St. Hobart. The late 20th century validated the T. J. Nevin attribution at the QVMAG in 1977 with an exhibition documented in the press releases and reviews of the day, and in correspondence between researchers and curators at the State Library of Tasmania and the QVMAG. These documents are easily accessible to the public, and many (but not all key documents) have been visible on these Nevin family weblogs since 2003.

In the NLA publication Intersections, which appeared in 2004, Helen Ennis clearly attributed the photograph of convict John Moran taken from the NLA's "Nevin album" to T. J. Nevin.

Julia Clark has peddled her so-called "research" to public institutions holding these 19th Tasmanian convict photographs with the insistence that they suppress Thomas J. Nevin's name as the photographer of Tasmanian convicts. Poor Clark and her blatant opportunism in playing the events-of-1996-Port Arthur sympathy-card to get the attention of NLA librarians on what is only a minor error regarding Reeder's photographer misattribution to A. H. Boyd. She is to be roundly despised for lying to the administrators of public collections while seeking influence, and she should be sued for breach of copyright for stealing from the authors of these Nevin weblogs.

The rest of the Clark essay, written in the mode of hero discourse - she will rescue the cartes, she will save them etc - is equally silly, equally invalid, equally duplicitious and dishonest. Ideas for discussion and original documentation were - and continue to be - purloined and plagiarised from the writers of these Nevin family weblogs by Clark and then abused for whatever has suited her contrary arguments.

The National Library of Australia should and can be held accountable for this act of cronyism. It's not about whether their prisoner photographs are stamped verso by the photographer. Who would seriously expect police mugshots - in 1870 or in 2009 - to signify the photographer's "authorship"? Even without Nevin's stamp, which DOES appear on several of these Tasmanian prisoner cartes (for registration of his commission and contract renewal), there is ample evidence to be found in other documents and newspaper articles of his "authorship". The cry for a photographer's stamp by the NLA on current catalogue records is simply the subterfuge of a biased staff who have demonstrated the degree of contempt in which they hold the noble profession of librarianship, the time they are prepared to devote to obscure their errors, their laziness, and their bias, and the errors of those who flatter them; these are librarians who assume they can sanction the rewriting of history by any fool regardless of the readily available historical documents held within the National Library building itself, especially those which testify to T. J. Nevin's photographic duties as THE photographer of their "Port Arthur convict photographs 1874". These public servants are not interested in the effects of their abuse of the national heritage and of our bona fide and extremely generous research, nor of the confusion they inflict on the Australian public. The effect of whimsical cronyism might in the short term, if not checked, suppress the original and factually correct attribution to Nevin in "the official records"at the NLA, which was the expectation expressed by a desperate Warwick Reeder in an email to a Nevin descendant. But such action from the NLA only puts into question any claim they make about any of their holdings: it generates distrust, and ultimately earns them derision and calls for accountability. Descendants of the family of photographer Thomas J. Nevin with valuable research and collections have no option but to contemplate deposits elsewhere such as Britain or the USA.That, or just mount a civil suit.

The journey from Hobart to Port Arthur 1873-4

The notice below was published in Walch's Tasmanian Almanac in 1873, at a time when the Port Arthur prison site on the Tasman Peninsula, 60 kms from Hobart, was still in operation. The traveller from Hobart faced a frequently interrupted, long and uncomfortable journey, alternating between road and sea transport and an overnight hotel stay.

The Government schooner Harriet in foreground at Port Arthur 1874 and the Southern Cross in background.
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania
Ref: 30/3335. Unattributed.

Entry to the Tasman Peninsula depended on the issue of a pass, signed by the Colonial Secretary, by prior arrangement, which was collected by the armed guard at Eagle Hawk Neck, 14 miles distant from the prison itself (so the story goes, though many visitors on government business arrived without the pass).

By 1874, however, the traveller could take an alternative route. In 1874, at a cost of £27 000 the 5 km causeway across Pittwater linking Sorell to Midway Point and Midway Point to Hobart was completed. It had taken six years and was primarily designed to link Port Arthur with Hobart.

Photographers including Alfred Bock and Thomas Nevin in the 1860s, and Thomas Nevin and Samuel Clifford in 1871 and 1873, used the government schooner Harriet. Thomas Nevin may have travelled along the causeway to Port Arthur at some time later than 1874, and travelled by sea as well with his father-in-law, Master Mariner Captain James Day. He was on police business when he travelled to Port Arthur on board the schooner Harriet on May 8th, 1874, one week after the official tenure began of the new Commandant, Dr. Coverdale. In reality Coverdale had already replaced A.H. Boyd in January 1874 with A.H. Boyd's sudden resignation from the position under allegations of corruption and nepotism levelled at him and his brother-in-law Attorney-General W.R. Giblin in the Parliament in July and continuing through 1873. On May 8th 1874, Nevin arrived at Port Arthur accompanied by the prisoner William Campbell who was hanged as Job Smith one year later. It was at the insistence of Dr Crowther in Parliament and Dr Coverdale that no more prisoners be sent to Port Arthur and those still remaining be removed to Hobart asylums and gaols, a process begun in 1871. It was Thomas Nevin who photographed the transferees on their arrival at the Hobart Gaol if he had not already photographed them on committal to the Supreme Court and adjoining Hobart Gaol prior to their removal to Port Arthur.

Photographed as William Campbell from the Supreme Court trial, and recorded as Campbell on being received and photographed at the Hobart Gaol; by Nevin, March 1872. This carte is hand coloured, probably by Nevin's studio assistants for display in his shop window when Campbell was tried again at the Supreme Court Hobart 11-14 May 1875 and executed.

The misattribution to Commandant A.H. Boyd, Dr Coverdale's predecessor, as a photographer, and THE photographer of convicts at Port Arthur was argued as a "belief" by Chris Long in the 1980s and 1990s, despite all evidence available to him pointing to the use of commercial photographers in prisons by governments in other Australian states (South Australia, Victoria), and readily available newspaper, police and Treasury documents of the period detailing Nevin's work with police and the Hobart Gaol.

Chris Long's argument centered on three points:

1. photographic materials were supposedly sent to Port Arthur in 1873, and a tent and stand were returned in 1874 to Hobart.

2. a descendant of Boyd told a story in the 1930s about cameras at the Government Cottage.

3. the wet collodion process must have been used, and the Government Cottage must therefore have been the place where the "darkroom" was situated. Ergo ...

None of these pieces of information is factual nor adds up to anything close to proving attribution. The cargo lists of photographic materials indicate nothing more than cargo. The descendant's story was a children's tale about a holiday at Port Arthur called The Young Explorer (E.M. Hall), an unpublished 3 page piece of FICTION which mentions neither Boyd nor the photographing of prisoners. The mention of a "room" with cameras in this children's tale was turned into a "darkroom" by no-one else, just Chris Long.  It was a story told in the 1930s by a woman in her sixties to give her young readers a taste of the old days, yet Long incorrectly ascribed it to an article by Margaret Glover in 1979, The same hearsay was embellished in the 1990s at the Port Arthur Historic site for the tourists visiting the Government Cottage. The third point is also unfactual:  the dry plate process, or "Russell's Tannin Process" rather than the wet collodion process was already in use by Samuel Clifford and Thomas J. Nevin in the mid 1860s (see Kerr 1992, entry on Clifford).

It may have been Samuel Clifford, partner of Thomas Nevin, who travelled on the Harriet in 1873 with the cargo of one case of photographic plates; a Mr Clifford or Gifford was listed as a passenger on the way bill, accompanying 288 photographic glasses which allegedly arrived there on board the government schooner Harriet on July 30th, 1873. The case was intended for the prison storekeeper from government stores in Hobart. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that the photographic plates arrived at Port Arthur: see this article here.

Photographic glasses as cargo to Port Arthur 30 July 1873
Tasmanian Papers Ref. 320, Mitchell Library, SLNSW

The detail (above) of the first page of the Way Bill from Hobart Town for goods conveyed to the Port Arthur prison storekeeper on the government schooner Harriet, is dated July 30th 1873. These glasses, if they were actually sent, were primarily used by Clifford and Nevin to photograph the Port Arthur site and its surrounds, including the steady stream of visiting dignitaries. And they were probably used for stereoscopic photography, IF they had been used by these two professional photographers.

Photographic material to Port Arthur on the way bill of August 12, 1873.
Tasmanian Papers Ref. 320, Mitchell Library, SLNSW

This second way bill (detail above), dated August 12th, 1873, delivered "Photographic Material - 1 case" to the Port Arthur government stores. Included on this way bill is "Bunting Red" and "Braid Red", suggesting preparations for a festive or official occasion, such as the visit by the Governor of South Australia whom Clifford photographed there in 1873. On December 1, 1873, another passenger who may or may not have been Samuel Clifford returned to Hobart on the Harriet with some very large boxes.

Nowhere on these way bills is there evidence that Commandant A.H.Boyd personally used these plates and equipment to take the photographs of the remaining convicts of the criminal class at the penitentiary.

The third way bill cited by Chris Long (TMAG, 1995:36) - dated 2nd April, 1874 - which details two photographic items - a tent and stand - shipped back to Hobart, is offered by Chris Long as pivotal proof that Boyd was the "Port Arthur photographer." Nothing more substantial than that, and unproven in every detail. Examination of the third waybill showed that this same tent and stand were NOT the possessions of A.H. Boyd; a Mrs Boyd travelled on the Harriet on that date, with only a few personal items such as a hat box and pram.

See the extended discussion on this site about the use of this argument.

Page 36 citing the three way bills and attribution to T.J. Nevin with mention of A.H. Boyd

Nonetheless, these way bills are cited by Chris Long in Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940 : A Directory (TMAG 1995:36) as evidence that the Commandant of the Port Arthur penitentiary, Adolarious Humphrey Boyd, "may have been" the photographer rather than Thomas J. Nevin , an opinion adopted by Warwick Reeder without substantiation and without checking the Glover reference or descendant's story (MA sub-thesis, ANU 1995) and summarily dismissed by the authoritative photohistorians Geoffrey Stilwell and Joan Kerr (1992), and John McPhee (1977) who curated the original QVMAG exhibition of Nevin's convict portraits. The misattribution is best termed a PARASITIC attribution, circumstantial and without substance or basis in fact. At worst, it is a personal fantasy.

The original bundle of convicts' portraits was "discovered" in the basement of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in the mid 1970s among the 20 tonnes of materials which John Watt Beattie transferred there in 1927 from his Port Arthur Museum in Hobart (David Young, 1996).

Beattie had acquired the convict photographs from government sources such as the Sheriff's Office, sources readily available to him as official government photographer in the 1900s, and from his purchase of the Anson Bros photographic studio in 1892. The Anson Bros in turn had acquired stock from Clifford's sale of his studio in 1878, stock which included materials from Nevin's partnership with Clifford in the 1870s. Between 1927 and the exhibition of Beattie's collection in 1934, cataloguing at the QVMAG in 1958, the Nevin exhibition in 1977, and another cataloguing event in 1985 through to 1987, the original bundle was split up, and in some instances the photographs were copied: several remained at the QVMAG, several sent to the TMAG (1987), several to the Archives Office of Tasmania (1982), and several to the National Library of Australia (1982-1995).

Warwick Reeder states clearly in his thesis (1995:69) that the Boyd attribution arose from hearsay about a story circulating at the Port Arthur Historic Site where a Boyd descendant recalled seeing a camera at the Commandant's house:

Boyd's niece, E. M. Hall, nee Giblin, recalls that while Boyd was in charge of Port Arthur, he "had a room fitted up in the garden [of the Commandant's house] and was always on the lookout for sitters, [she being] a proud and constant occupant of the only available chair."

(footnote 65, Ibid, Reminiscences of E. M. Hall, Crowther Library, State Library of Tasmania in Glover, Margaret, Report on the physical fabric of Port Arthur).

But Margaret Glover makes no such reference to either E.M. Hall or A.H. Boyd and cameras in that article (1979). That piece of hearsay, derived purely from a story scripted in fictional form for children by E.H. Hall in 1933, forms the sole evidence put forward by Long (1995) and Reeder (1995) wishing to claim Boyd, a career accountant, to be the one and only (proficient and professional) photographer involved when Boyd had no reputation in his lifetime as a photographer, no training or extant works, and no official documents associates him with prison photography. Long and Reeder had nothing more than a sentence in a children's story. 

The informant's story dates from the 1930s, and was falsely attributed to statements which do not appear in  Margaret Glover, effectively fabricating photohistory for the next three decades, yet this story, coupled with the waybills, forms the cornerstone of Chris Long's "belief" that A.H. Boyd took the extant cartes of Tasmanian convicts which bear the inscription on verso "Taken at Port Arthur, 1874". Many were copied by John Watt Beattie from the originals taken in the 1870s, and catalogued with that inscription by archivists decades later, using primarily the place and date of photographic capture as a lure for the Edwardian tourist.

The original commission was requested by Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, Chief Justice Francis Smith, supervised at the Hobart Gaol by Ringrose Atkins, and managed by tender at the Office of the Superintendent of Police at the central Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall. The work done by Thomas Nevin while under tender until 1876 was commercial and consistent with his family portraits and his portrait of Judge W.R. Giblin which bears Nevin's stamp on verso. Warwick Reeder notes (1995:70) that -

Chris Long was the first to suggest that they [Port Arthur cartes 1874] might have been taken by A.H. Boyd

He is also the last, and should be the last (any redux of this issue is an echo effect, nothing more). Neither Long nor Reeder, the only two to hypothesize the Boyd attribution with such spurious logic and lack of proof, followed the history behind the movement of the photographs from location to location to location. In none of the debate has mention been made of Thomas Nevin's brother, Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol nor to the fact that the Sheriff's Office held the records from 1887 to 1951.

Samuel Clifford's presence (and probably Nevin's) at the Government Cottage, Port Arthur in 1873 was recorded on this image of the gardens, with the date on mount:

Title: From the Government Cottage, Port Arthur
Creator(s):Clifford, Samuel, 1827-1890
Date: ca. 1873
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toned ; 11 x 19 cm.
Notes: Title inscribed in ink below image ; date noted in pencil at lower right of image on album page ; item number noted in ink at centre left of image on album page.
Exact size 105 x 184 mm., "Tasmanian scenes" also known as "Clifford album 1".
Location: W.L. Crowther LibraryADRI: AUTAS001124075870

Samuel Clifford's partnership with Thomas Nevin has not been examined by the ardent "mystery solvers" of the "authorship" of the convict cartes held in both public and private collections. Clifford reprinted many of Nevin's commercial studio portraits, stereos and landscapes for Nevin's clients over many years into the 1880s. The "mystery" is compounded by the fact that records kept at the Port Arthur Historic Site are incomplete and therefore unreliable; several valuable record books are held in private collections, and in NSW private and public collections.

For example, the Mitchell , State Library of NSW holds the Port Arthur "Officers' visiting book, 1873" (Location No.: Tasmanian Papers Ref: 308). The Giblin contract issued to Nevin and held at the Allport firm of lawyers where Giblin was an associate was located by G.T. Sitwell in the Allport Bequest, State Library of Tasmania in 1978, and the portrait of W.R. Giblin taken by Thomas Nevin ca. 1876 was located in The Pretyman Collection, Archives Office of Tasmania.

When evacuation of inmates from Port Arthur was completed in September 1877,

" ... the central records were maintained in the office of the Administrator of Charitable Relief (within the Chief Secretary's Department), but in 1887 the Deputy Sheriff complained of their filthy condition and asked that they should be entirely under the Sheriff's care. This was evidently agreed to, for the great bulk of the records comprising this Record Group were still in the custody of the Sheriff when they were transferred to the State Archives in 1951."

Source: Archives Office of Tasmania http://www.archives.tas.gov.au/guides/Con_guide.pdf

"The great bulk "? Not so. The Mitchell Library of NSW holds a vast collection of original documents from the Tasmanian colonial period - 368 volumes - bequeathed by D. S. Mitchell in 1907, including a later acquisition from photographer John Watt Beattie (1919) from whose bequest in the QVMAG the T.J. Nevin portraits of convicts were drawn for exhibition (1977) and distributed piecemeal to other State and National institutions (e.g. NLA 1980s and TMAG 1987).

Title : Tasmanian Papers, 1803-1890, re the administration of the Tasmanian convict system
Creator: Tasmania. Government
Date of Work: 1803-1890
Contents: Official records relating to the government and administration of Tasmania. The records relate to both free citizens and convicts and include material as diverse as jury lists, correspondence, supreme court records, police records, convict indents, convict returns and convict assignment lists, musters, land grants, financial records, Commissariat records, executive council minutes, stock and produce returns, magisterial records, marriage records, plans etc.

Title: Tasmanian Papers, 1821-1877, bequeathed by D.S. Mitchell, 1907
[87 vols. from a series of 368 vols.]
Date of Work :1821 - 1877
Type of Material: Manuscripts

Bequeathed by D. S. Mitchell, 1907 (Tas. Papers Nos 16, 21-30, 129-141, 161-174, 198, 209-211, 221, 229, 233, 247-251, 294-302, 305-308, 310-314, 316, 318-321, 332, D 2-D 13, D 23). Other volumes were acquired from Angus & Robertson, 1911,1913, Mr Beattie, 1919, Mr. Eldershaw, 1939, C.R. Fisher, 1946, C.L. Wilkes, 1949 and C.H. Lucas, 1954.

Any researcher on this question of "authorship" - which is a debate amongst art historians and fine art dealers founded on essentialist notions of the "artist" - needs to examine the Mitchell holdings: to imagine that the only extant records relevant to the period - and the debate - are held by Tasmanian institutions and Tasmanian historic sites such as the Port Arthur Historic Site, is indeed naive. The Mitchell papers also show that prisoners at Port Arthur were being relocated elsewhere to prisons in Hobart as early as 1871. The Mitchell Library also holds eleven convict photographs, catalogued in Nevin's name, some bearing his government contract studio stamp. The prisoners in these photographs, like all the extant photographs of convicts by Nevin, were repeat offenders whose mugshots were taken by Nevin as early as 1872 at Supreme Court committals at the request of the Police and Prisons Departments.

Just as with Samuel Clifford's partnership with Thomas Nevin, Charles A. Woolley's association with A. H. Boyd has not been examined by any commentators. Another non-sequitur by Chris Long appears on page 20 of the TMAG publication, Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940: A Directory (1995).

Under the entry for BOYD, Adolarious Humphrey, Chris Long writes:

Superintendent at Port Arthur, 1871-1874. Thought to have taken most of the extant Tasmanian convict photographs (MEA). See also Charles Woolley.

Notice the use of the passive construction "Thought to ...". No-one before Chris Long believed A. H. Boyd took these photographs; his "belief" is purely through idle speculation, not through documented proof. The entry for Boyd under "B" is as brief as this, and Chris Long gives no follow through to demonstrate that Charles A. Woolley had any association with these Tasmanian convict photographs, the reason being that Woolley in fact had no association with prison photography.

Notice also the slippage in exchangability between "Port Arthur convict photographs" and "Tasmanian convict photographs", as though they are synonymous, when they are not. The carte printed on page 36 on the left-hand side does not carry the inscription on the verso "Taken at Port Arthur, 1874", whereas the verso of the one on the right does bear that inscription. All of these convicts were photographed by the police and prisons photographer employed to do a specific job, and that photographer was Thomas Nevin working principally at the Supreme Court, the Hobart Gaol and Municipal Police Office Town Hall between 1872 and 1884 with his brother Jack Nevin. Constable W.J. (John or Jack) Nevin's service began in 1875 and continued until his untimely death in 1891, aged 39 yrs.

In summary, Chris Long's research is a mess, and should NOT be used as a creditable source of information.

Carte by Charles A. Woolley believed by Chris Long to be a photograph of the Commandant at Port Arthur, A. H. Boyd (TMAG 1995:129).

RELATED POSTS main weblog

NLA's 'Intersections' with convict carte by Nevin

Helen Ennis 2004 and the National Library of Australia collection …

Intersections: Photography, History and the National Library of Australia
By Helen Ennis
ISBN 0 642 10792 0
pb, large format 270 b&w and colour photographs.
297 x 240mm 285pp
Publisher: National Library of Australia 2004

Included in this publication with attribution to professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin is the carte-de-visite of a Tasmanian prisoner, John Moran, selected from a collection of 84 "Port Arthur convicts" photographs held at the National Library of Australia.

Thomas J. Nevin’s photograph in an oval mount of convict John Moran 1874

The photograph appears on page 18 with this caption, copied from the NLA catalogue:
Thomas J. Nevin (1842-ca.1922) [i.e. the photographer] John Moran per Ly (i.e. Lady) Lady Franklin, Taken at Port Arthur 1874 albumen photograph on carte-de-visite mount; 9.4 x 5.7 cm nla.pic-an24612479
Notes from the Publisher:
“The National Library holds more than 600 000 photographs in its Pictures Collection. This large collection of images is contemporary, diverse, exciting, historic, whimsical and unexpected, embodying the challenge and pathos of history and the extraordinary dimensions of memory.
Now, in this first representative survey of the Library’s photographic holdings, Helen Ennis introduces us to Australia from the 1840s to the present as we have never seen before – at peace and at war, and in all of its splendour and ordinary dailiness, as seen through the cameras of Charles Bayliss, Samuel Sweet, Olive Cotton, May and Minna Moore, Peta Hill, Frank Hurley, Harold Cazneaux, Max Dupain, Philip Gostelow, Raymond de Berquelle, Wolfgang Sievers and many more.”
As the majority of photo-histories are written within or from a context of art theory and practice, the focus on factual documentation is often foreshortened. Police records and biographical information on this convict details his crimes of burglary and incarceration at the Hobart Gaol:

The Archives Office of Tasmania holds this information:

Database No:50512
Moran John 12 Oct 1845 Lady Franklin Norfolk Island To NSW per Florentia. To Norfolk Island 1836. Soldier 99th Regiment. Tried Sydney May 1841.

From being “enlarged” with a ticket-of-leave in January, 1874, John Moran was in and out of Hobart Gaol on a regular basis. He was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin on discharge in February 1874 at the Municipal Police Office, Town Hall, and this photo of him was circulated with the warrant in October 1875.

John Moran:Ticket of leave granted 30th January, 1874

John Moran: Discharged 6th February, 1874

John Moran: Discharged 4th August 1875

John Moran: Arrested 26th October, 1875

John Moran: Discharged 27th October 1875

John Moran: Warrant for arrest 26th November, 1875

John Moran: Convicted 4th December, 1875
etc etc John Moran died in custody at the Hobart Gaol in July 1889.
Source: Tasmania Reports on Crime For Police Information 1871-1875 J. Barnard, Gov't Printer.

Three print formats are extant of government contractor T. J. Nevin's original capture from the only sitting with prisoner John Moran between 2-6 February 1874:

Uncut sepia print of prisoner John Moran, original capture
Photographed by T. J. Nevin February 1874
QVMAG Collection (one of forty in three panels)

Prisoner MORAN, John
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin February 1873
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery collection
TMAG Ref: Q15582

The two identical photographs of John Moran printed in an oval mount are Nevin's copies from his original capture. The NLA copy was acquired from the QVMAG ca. 1985 for an exhibition at the NLA (McPhee, personal communication). The TMAG copy was acquired from the QVMAG for an exhibition held at the Port Arthur Heritage Site in 1983 and returned - not to the QVMAG - but to the TMAG (Wishart et al).

The original uncut sepia print was cleaned of scratches and cracks, and re-photographed as a black and white print by Chris Long at the QVMAG in 1985 for reasons known only to himself since they serve no purpose. The original print taken from Nevin's glass negative of the 1870s was removed from the prisoner's Hobart Gaol rap sheet and collated into one of three panels, forty (40) in all, by convictaria collector John Watt Beattie and advertised for sale in his catalogue, 1916. Both the original 1874 sepia uncut print and the 1985 reproduction are held at the QVMAG.

Black and white print of John Moran
Reproduced from T. Nevin’s negative 1874
QVMAG Collection Ref: 1985 p 0163

John Moran was not photographed at Port Arthur, despite the NLA’s catalogue entry which suggests there is a handwritten inscription on verso. The inscription “Taken at Port Arthur, 1874” appears inscribed on the verso of many dozens of these cartes of Tasmanian prisoners. The number “3″ appears on the verso, too, apparently, and like all these numbers on either the verso or mount ranging from 1 to more than 300, the sequencing has been devised by the copyists for inclusion in an archive decades later.

The photograph was taken at the MPO, Hobart Town Hall, between the 2nd and 6th February 1874, and NOT at the Port Arthur prison. This prisoner was one of three men photographed on that date: Thomas FRANCIS and Thomas SAUNDERS were also discharged and photographed in Hobart by T.J. NEVIN between 4th-6th February 1874. Thomas Francis’ mounted mugshot is held at the National Library of Australia, and a print from Nevin’s original negative is held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. Thomas Saunder’s mounted mugshot is also held at the QVMAG.

The methodical copying, printing and cataloguing of the originals, some reproduced from Nevin’s glass negatives as lantern slides, others reprinted in an oval mount conventionally used by commercial photographers working in prisons in NSW and Victoria of the 1870s, date from 1900s -1920s and were displayed by John Watt Beattie in his convictaria museum in Hobart and for inclusion in travelling exhibitions of convictaria associated with the fake convict hulk Success. Who else but a curator/archivist would write “Taken at Port Arthur …” on the verso of a photograph, unless the image was to be directed at tourists as an artefact of Tasmanian history? Not the prison photographer working in situ with government documentation, and as the several copies circulated for police reference were pasted to documents such as the warrant and the prisoner’s criminal record, inscribing the verso would serve no one; it would not be visible. Likewise, printing the verso with a studio stamp would have been a waste of effort and ink. The several extant prisoner cartes which do carry T. J. Nevin’s studio stamp enclosing the government insignia (located at the QVMAG and Mitchell Library, NSW) were used to register his copyright (of a batch per 100 capita), renew his contract, and access his commission.

There is no doubt that the early years of transportation to Tasmania’s Port Arthur prison have been the primary focus and fascination for historians. It feeds and feeds off the aggressive promotion of the prison site as the State’s key historic attraction. And it has become the convention and norm of writers to corral one or more of these prisoner ID photographs within their new texts that deal with those early years. Michael Bogle’s recent publication on convicts (2008), as an example, has T. J. Nevin’s negative (1875) of convict Charles Rosetta on the front cover, unattributed to Nevin, and wrongly dated to 1917 with attribution to the copyists Beattie & Searle, from the NLA collection.

Michael Bogle, Convicts (2008) Photos © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

These sorts of publications ignore the fact that the circumstances in which T. J. Nevin produced the photos in the mid 1870s were very different from those experienced by transported convicts at Port Arthur in the 1850s; moreover, they ignore the very obvious fact that these “booking photographs” as they were called, represent old men with 20 more years’ experience of felonies and incarceration since their early Port Arthur days, transportees who had become conventional prisoners in and out of a conventional town gaol. This blind spot explains in part why the site of Port Arthur with the date of 1874, embellished with the fantasist creation of a photographer attribution to one of its Commandants (A.H. Boyd) in the 1990s (Chris Long, Warwick Reeder), has been assigned across the board to the National Library of Australia’s collection under pressure from these writers’ errors in printed publications. The mundane reality of these convicts’ later prison exploits does not make good tourist copy, and by association nor do the routines of a jobbing photographer, as Thomas Nevin was, employed at a city gaol to produce the prisoner’s mugshot. Who can name a prison photographer in any era? No one, because they are not deemed “artists”. They remain invisible to the public, without attribution. Anonymity is de rigeur in their job. See also this post with reference to Helen Ennis.

page 18, Intersections, photograph by Thomas Nevin of convict John Moran.


Key dates in Thomas Nevin's life

Key Chronology 1842-1923

Professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923) produced large numbers of stereographs and cartes-de-visite within his commercial practice, and prisoner identification photographs on government contract. His career spanned nearly three decades, from the early 1860s to the late 1880s. He was one of the first photographers to work with the police in Australia, along with Charles Nettleton (Victoria) and Frazer Crawford (South Australia). His Tasmanian prisoner mugshots are among the earliest to survive in public collections, viz. the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston; the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart; the Tasmanian Heritage and Archives Office, Hobart; the Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasman Peninsula; the National Library of Australia, Canberra; and the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW, Sydney.

Thomas nevinlate 1870s

Above: Thomas J. Nevin, self-portrait with table-top stereo viewer ca. 1870
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2005-2019 ARR


Thomas James Nevin was a professional photographer, civil servant, member of the Loyal United Brothers' Lodge, bailiff and special constable. He was born near Belfast, County Down, Ireland on the 28th August 1842 and died in Hobart on March 12, 1923. He arrived in Hobart, ten years old, from Plymouth on board the convict transport Fairlie in July 1852 as a free settler, accompanied by his parents and three younger siblings, Mary Anne (b. 1845), Rebecca Jane (b. 1847) and William John (Jack, b. 1852). His mother, Mary Nevin nee Dickson (b. 1810) was born in England, and moved to Newtonards, Ireland with her brother, nurseryman Alexander Dickson where she met and married Thomas' father John Nevin (b.1808, Grey Abbey, Ireland). He had served in the Royal Scots First Regiment in the West Indies from 1825, at the Canadian Rebellions 1837-38, and pioneered journalism while in service. He worked their passage as a guard of the 294 adult convicts, and warden of the 32 exiled Parkhurst boys on board the Fairlie, arriving in Hobart in July 1852 (AOT MB2/98). The family settled at Kangaroo Valley near Hobart Tasmania where John Nevin snr built the family house on property in trust to the Wesleyan Church which included orchards neighbouring the Lady Franklin Museum, Ancanthe, the Wesleyan Chapel, the schoolhouse where Mary Ann Nevin, Thomas ' sister taught children by day and their father John Nevin snr taught adult males by night, and an acre of adjoining gardens leased from the Nairns (Hobart Town Gazettes 1873-1880).

In November 1865, Thomas Nevin's sister Rebecca Jane Nevin, died aged 18yrs, at Kangaroo Valley. Their father John Nevin snr published a poem in January 1866 commemorating her life titled "Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin who died at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley on the 10th November 1865". In April 1868 John Nevin published a poem in pamphlet form titled "My Cottage in the Wilderness" (SLNSW) celebrating his contentment at settling in Kangaroo Valley (renamed Lenah Valley in 1923)..

From the early 1860s Thomas Nevin operated a photographic studio at New Town with the business name of "Thomas Nevins", i.e. the "s" signifying the possessive, as in "the studio of Thomas Nevin". By 1865 he was assistant to photographer Alfred Bock whose residence and studio he leased from A. Biggs at 138-140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town on Alfred Bock's departure for Victoria in 1867 (Hobart Town Gazettes 1870s). Nevin maintained the business name of the studio, The City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town. With partner Robert Smith, they formed the firm Nevin & Smith, producing stereographic views and hand-tinted studio portraits (TMAG and Private Collections). The firm Nevin & Smith celebrated the visit to Tasmania of Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria by devising a rare Royal insignia stamp in 1868  (State Library of Victoria Collection, private collections). However, the partnership was short-lived. Robert Smith moved to Goulburn, NSW where he set up a studio, and the firm known as Nevin & Smith was dissolved on 22nd February 1868, undersigned by Thomas Nevin's solicitor, later Attorney-General, W.R. Giblin. Thomas Nevin continued with the business name, the City Photographic Establishment at the same address, and exhibited photographs of Melville St under snow (1868) and A Party at the Rocking Stone Mt Wellington (1870) at the Wellington Park Exhibitions (TMAG Collection). He also exhibited stereoscopic views, prize cards and cartes-de-visite at the Tasmanian Poultry Society's annual exhibition at the Town Hall in August 1869 and the Town Hall Bazaar on 1st April, 1870 (Mercury Friday 1 Apr 1870 Page 2 ). For his work as the firm of Nevin & Smith, he was granted a colonial Royal Warrant, and for his work with the Lands and Survey Department of the colonial government, he was granted another colonial Royal warrant by authority. By 1870 Nevin was providing photographs of mining and reservoir works at the Huon and Cascades on government commission, as well as providing group portraits and landscapes for tourists to the Lady Franklin Museum and and John Franklin's Tree at Kangaroo Valley, Hobart.

On July 12th, 1871, Thomas Nevin married Elizabeth Rachel Day, niece of merchant mariner Captain Edward Goldsmith (1804-1869), daughter of master mariner Captain James Day (1806-1882) and Rachel Pocock (d. 1857, Hobart) at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart. He photographed the Odd Fellows' Hall for the Loyal United Lodge and IOOF in the same month, July 1871. Several examples of his stereography survive from collaboration with commercial photographer Samuel Clifford (late 1860s - late 1870s). Some full-length portraits survive with the verso inscription Clifford & Nevin, Hobart Town (QVMAG , TMAG and Private Collections). Samuel Clifford advised the public in 1876 that he could provide prints from Nevin's negatives for his former private patrons and friends (Mercury 17 Jan 1876) since Thomas J. Nevin's appointment to the civil service full-time as Office and Hall Keeper of the Hobart Town Hall precluded commercial remuneration. He continued with the production of prisoner mugshots for the Municipal Police Office and Mayor's Court, housed within the Town Hall, and at the Hobart Gaol with the assistance of his younger brother Constable John (W. J.) Nevin.

In 1870, younger brother Jack (William John) Nevin joined the civil service, aged 18 years, and was stationed at the Asylum, Cascades Prison for Males, Hobart. His service continued at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street as Constable John Nevin, "Gaol Messenger", a rank which covered his duties as photographer, and as a hospital "Wardsman" until his untimely death from typhoid while still in service, at 39 yrs old.

Between January 31st and 2nd February 1872, Thomas Nevin was commissioned to photograph parties of VIPS visiting Hobart on trips to Adventure Bay and Port Arthur. The trip to Adventure Bay resulted in a series of group portraits which included the Hon. Mr. James Wilson (Premier of Tasmania), Alfred Kennerley, (Mayor of Hobart and Police Magistrate), the manager of the Van Diemen's Land Bank, the Hon. John O'Shanassy (former Premier of Victoria), Mr John Miller (Cape of Good Hope), Father Sheehy, Mr. Tobin (Victoria), John Woodcock Graves jnr (barrister Tasmania), Captain Clinch (commander of the City of Hobart), the Hon. James Erskine Calder (former Surveyor-General), and Robert Byron Miller (barrister Tasmania). The trip to Port Arthur included British author Anthony Trollope, Premier J. M. Wilson, lawyers Howard Spensley, Solicitor-General of Victoria, and the Tasmanian Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, Nevin's family solicitor since 1868, who had requested Nevin join them to organize facilities on site and procedures for photographing prisoners in accordance with recent legislative provisions in Victoria and NSW. They stayed a few days while Trollope gathered information from interviewing prisoners, including Denis Dogherty, whom Nevin photographed among other recent absconders. He took photographs as well of the derelict state of the buildings, of costly but unfinished engineering works, and general vistas across the site.

Thomas J. Nevin was married and a first-time father by June 4th, 1872 when heavy rains and the great landslide at Glenorchy destroyed houses, farms, businesses and streets and tore boulders and vegetation from the slopes of Mount Wellington. He was living at the residence adjoining his city studio and the glass house/gallery, The City Photographic Establishment, 138-140 Elizabeth St. Hobart with his wife Elizabeth Rachel Day and their new-born daughter May (Mary Florence Elizabeth) who was born just a fortnight earlier on the 19th May 1872 (she died to the day exactly 83 yrs later, on 4th June 1955). That Tuesday night of the great flood in Glenorchy, photographic stock at Nevin's old studio in nearby New Town was probably saturated by the heavy rain, if water damage on some of his extant photographs taken a few months earlier in January 1872 at Adventure Bay, is any indication. But his anxieties would have been far greater concerning his parents living in the cottage his father had built at Kangaroo Valley on land above the Lady Franklin Museum, in the northern foothills of kunanyi/Mount Wellington.

Within days of the landslide, Thomas Nevin was out and about taking photographs of the damage on commission for the Lands and Survey Division of the Hobart City Council, most likely in the company of Mr. Hull, Council Clerk for the district. Three extant stereographs are held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Both stereographs in yellow mounts bear verso his government contractor stamp with the Royal Arms insignia issued to Thomas J. Nevin by the Attorney-General, W. R. Giblin and Surveyor-General J. Erskine Calder in 1868 for use on government commissions. The same stamp appears on police photographs of prisoners (convicts), of the Royal Mail coach operated by Sam Page, of full-length and mounted cartes-de-visite of staff members of the Hobart City Council, their wives and children, and on photographs of streets, landscapes, mining operations, caves and geological formations.

In December 1872, Thomas Nevin nominated his neighbour James Spence, government contractor and licensee of the Royal Standard Hotel at 142 Elizabeth St (corner of Patrick St) as an aldermanic candidate for the Hobart City Council elections, held at the Hobart Town Hall. Although James Spence failed in his bid to sit on the HCC, from early 1873 Thomas Nevin's presence at the Hobart Town Hall became increasingly important. He provided photographic records for the Municipal Police Office, located within the Hobart Town Hall, of prisoners on transfer from regional gaols to the Hobart Gaol, including those received from the Port Arthur prison and those discharged from the Mayor's Court. In late 1875, Thomas J. Nevin was appointed above 24 applicants to the position of Keeper of the Hobart Town Hall, and gazetted again as the HCC Office-keeper in 1878 (Mercury Tue 1 Jan 1878 Page 1). He maintained a studio for police photography at the Hobart Gaol and Hobart Town Hall, as well as his old studio at New Town. His services to the City Police extended to acting as assistant bailiff in the City and Supreme Courts for Sub-inspector John Dorsett (1881-1888; Mercury August 1886). His last documented assistance to police was noted by the Mercury, 19th July, 1888. He was the only commercial photographer in Hobart to receive commission on contract to provide the Municipal and Territorial Police with prisoner identification photographs for the central registry of the Inspector of Police, Town Hall.

Thomas Nevin's contractual arrangements extended to advertising for Samuel Page, also a government contractor who delivered the Royal Mail between Launceston and Hobart, and conveyed prisoners taken into custody at regional police stations to the central courts, prisons and depots in Hobart. Thomas Nevin and his brother Constable John Nevin travelled in the company of constables and prisoners on Page's coaches for his police work, but the majority of their prisoner identification photographs were taken at the Hobart Supreme Court and Hobart Gaol (also called the Campbell Street Gaol) on the occasion of the prisoner's sentencing and release, and at the Mayor's Court and Municipal Police Office, Town Hall, where tickets-of-leave were issued and renewed.

In the years 1873-1877 Thomas Nevin also assisted police and the Prisons Department in security matters during the devolvement of the Port Arthur penitentiary on the Tasman Peninsula, when prisoners were transferred and received at Hobart institutions. These arrangements were ordered by Nevin's solicitor and referee, Attorney-General W.R. Giblin (Journals of the House of Assembly July 1873), who contracted Nevin and whose portrait Nevin took ca 1874 (Archives Office of Tasmania). Extant examples of prisoners photographed by Thomas Nevin for these purposes and on these occasions survive in the hundreds in several formats: as uncut paper prints, as loose cartes-de-visite printed in oval mounts and a few as glass negatives, some copied again by J. W. Beattie in the 1900s for sale as tourist tokens and display at intercolonial exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship, Success. It was during this era of intense interest in penal heritage that Beattie et al wrote the fake information on the versos of loose cartes-de-visite printed in oval mounts - "Taken at Port Arthur 1874" to encourage interstate tourism to Port Arthur. Three panels of forty (40) paper prints from Nevin's 1870s negatives survive at the QVMAG, collated by Beattie and Searle for touring exhibitions at Hobart, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. A few from the 1870s survive still pasted to the prisoner's criminal record (rap sheet) but most now which have survived intact date from the 1890s, and are viewable online at the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office. The NSW State Archives and Records Office, Sydney, holds the earliest of these rap sheets with photos, dating from September 1871.

The first of exhibitions organised in the 1970s of Thomas J. Nevin's prisoner mugshots was held at the Centenary of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne in 1976. The Exhibition Catalogue was written by Daniel Thomas, Senior Curator and Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of NSW. The Tasmanian contributor was antiquarian Geoffrey Stilwell, a Trustee of the Centenary Celebrations of the Art Gallery of NSW and Special Collections curator of the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania.

In 1977, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, exhibited a large collection of these prisoner photographs with correct attribution to Thomas Nevin. Many of the men photographed in the 1870s had been transported as Parkhurst boys to the prison at Port Arthur. Several of the original photographs were salvaged by convictarian John Watt Beattie from the Sheriff's Office at the Hobart Gaol in the 1890s and reproduced as commercial items. Had they remained intact and in situ, they would have survived as the Hobart Gaol Photo Books, the supplement to the Tasmania Police Gazettes (known then as the Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police) which recorded on a weekly basis the offence, sentence and discharge of every man, whether photographed or not. Once the prisoner's photographs were removed by Beattie et al from the criminals' rap sheet, the photographs lost their contemporaneous reference, and have been misattributed and misappraised as "portraits", i.e. art objects by the public institutions which hold them. The terms and execution of Thomas Nevin’s prisoner commission were contractually and generically similar to those of other professional photographers working in prisons, Fraser Crawford (1867, South Australia) and Charles Nettleton (1873, Victoria).

Between 1869 and 1880, Thomas J. Nevin was an active member of the Loyal United Brothers' Lodge. His photograph of the Odd Fellows' Hall was praised in the Mercury 25 July 1871. He placed advertisements in newspapers soliciting medical profession services for Lodge members and their families in 1875, and was an Anniversary Ball committee member.

In January 1876, A. E. Biggs, proprietor of Thomas Nevin's shop, studio and glass house, advertised the premises to let at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart on the eve of Thomas Nevin's relocation with his wife Elizabeth Rachel and two children to the Keeper's apartment at the Hobart Town Hall where his appointment to the civil service as Office and Hall Keeper included the photographic documentation of discharges from the Mayor's Court. As Hall-Keeper he maintained the building, organised events and supervised constables on night watch. The Town Hall housed the central registry of the Municipal Police Office and Office of the Inspector of Police, in addition to cells in the basement. It also housed a first class library with an extensive range of overseas newspapers which was praised in the New York Times (1875) by the visiting American Expedition who photographed the Transit of Venus in Hobart (1874). The Keeper's position (an archaic term still used in Britain to denote the manager of an archive and its house) was a consolidation of Nevin's commission working with the Municipal Police. Their choice of T. J. Nevin, a well-known commercial photographer and government contractor, to the Hobart Town Hall staff was a clear indication of the value they placed on maintaining his ongoing services as a police photographer.

The Mercury Supplement reported on January 24, 1876, that -
‘Mr. Thomas Nevin, photographer, has been appointed Town Hall keeper, Hobart Town, in succession to the late Mr. Needham. There were 24 applicants for the office.’
Although employed now as a full-time civil servant, Thomas Nevin maintained his commercial photographic practice, sometimes in collaboration with friends and photographers, Samuel Clifford and Henry Hall Baily, as well as another studio at New Town in partnership with his younger brother Jack (Constable John or W. J. ) Nevin who was also salaried in the H.M. Gaol administration under the supervision of the Keeper Ringrose Atkins. Constable John Nevin acted as assistant during his brother's commission of photographing prisoners taken into custody at the Hobart Gaol after arraignment and sentencing at the Hobart Supreme Court next to the prison in Campbell Street.

In 1879 Hobart Town Hall Keeper Thomas Nevin was sworn in as a "special constable" i.e. he was ordered to carry arms, to help police control riots at the Town Hall during the lecture of the lapsed Catholic Canadian priest Pastor Charles Chiniquy. On the evening of 3rd December 1880, Thomas Nevin, still on duty, was returning to the Town Hall from the printing offices of the Advertiser with “photographic apparatus and chemicals” in hand and in the company of photographer Henry Hall Baily when he was arrested by his nemesis Constable John Blakeney on the charge that Nevin was seen pretending to be the ghost who had been terrorising the women of Hobart. Detained but not arrested, Thomas Nevin was released by his friend Detective Connor and the charge of "acting in concert with a person pretending to be a ghost" was dismissed. That person, the one who is mentioned several times in the Mercury account of 4th December 1880, may have been Nevin’s colleague at the Town Hall Municipal Police Office, the Information Officer Edwin Midwood, father of cartoonist Tom Widwood. The upshot of this incident was Nevin’s dismissal from the Town Hall position for inebriation while on duty, and the "GHOST" -whose identity Nevin knew but refused to reveal - was never caught and prosecuted.

Dismissed from the position of Keepr for being inebriated while on duty, Thomas Nevin was nevertheless defended by his friend Detective Connor at the Police Committee enquiry into the incident. As Nevin recounted the incident, after leaving Baily, he had returned to the Town Hall where he had heard the constables' whistle. His alleged drinking while on duty was in fact a trumped-up charge levelled at him in revenge by Constable Blakeney whose demotion in October 1880 was due entirely to Nevin's complaint against Constable Blakeney three months earlier for the exact same offense of drunk while on duty.

Thomas Nevin maintained his work on commission with the Hobart Municipal Police and Territorial Police from his photographic studio at New Town until 1888, producing prisoner mugshots, as well as commercial stereographs and portraits. He continued with a commission at the Hobart Gaol assisted by his brother Constable John Nevin until 1887 and acted as assistant bailiff for the City Police Sub-inspector John Dorsett (Mercury 1886; AOT; Reeder 1995; Death Warrants with photographs, Mitchell Library SLNSW; Private Collections). In 1888, he signed a resolution at the Hobart Town Hall in support of a bill proposing the centralisation of the various police forces. He died at his residence, no. 270 Elizabeth Street Hobart on March 12th, 1923, survived by six adult children.

At some point Thomas Nevin must have decided the Wesleyans weren’t for him, despite his father’s Trusteeship of the Wesleyan Chapel at Kangaroo Valley, and the taking of his wedding vows there in 1871. He was the only member of his immediate family to be buried at Cornelian Bay cemetery within the Church of England. The Hobart Town Hall experience of religious violence during Chiniquy’s visit, the death there of his son Sydney at four months old, and finally his dismissal, probably because of Temperance intolerance, changed his life. The hanging of Job Smith too, amidst much public outrage at the continued use of capital punishment in 1875, may have affected him, since Job Smith as William Campbell was one of the prisoners Nevin photographed at Port Arthur in 1874. Neither Thomas Nevin nor any of his children volunteered service in the Imperial Forces at the Boer War (1899-1902) or at the First World War (1914-18).  Pater familias and Wesleyan John Nevin snr had not brought his family across the world to settle in Tasmania to see them sent off to fight another war. His nightmarish experiences fighting the French in waist-deep snow at the Canadian Rebellions in 1839-40 were set as example enough that none of his family should ever go to war again.

During the 1890s-1900s, Nevin maintained an interest in photography, producing some enduring images of his family, but he turned his attentions to training horses, a love engendered in his youngest son Albert and the generations following, well into the 21st century.

Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923)
Record details at Cornelian Bay Cemetery, 12th March 1923

Links: Complete Archive || Site map: Work || Site map: Family

Summary by Date:

1842: Thomas J. Nevin is born near Belfast, Ireland, 28th August, to John Nevin and Mary Nevin (nee Dickson).

1845: His sister Mary Anne Nevin is born near Belfast, Ireland.

1847: His sister Rebecca Jane Nevin is born near Belfast, Ireland.

1852: January, his brother William John, known as Jack Nevin, is born near Belfast, Ireland.

1852: Thomas James Nevin arrives in Hobart, Tasmania, in July with his mother Mary Ann nee Dickson, his father John Nevin snr, and siblings Mary Anne, Rebecca Jane and William J. (Jack) on board the convict transport Fairlie (ex-Portsmouth) as free settlers. Their father John Nevin snr was a guard and warden on board of the 32 exiled boys from the Parkhurst prison.

1863: His father John Nevin publishes a poem in the Tasmanian Times on the death of his Royal Scots comrade-in-arms James William Chisholm with whom he had served at the Canadian Rebellion of 1839.

1864: Thomas Nevin sets up his photographic studio at New Town, operating with the business name "Thomas Nevins" (possessive apostrophe omitted). He photographs the Queen's Orphan Asylum and St John's Church for incoming administrator Dr John Coverdale.

1852-1870: Thomas Nevin resides with parents at Kangaroo Valley in the Glenorchy electoral district, Hobart. His father John Nevin publishes poetry, holds a trusteeship of the Wesleyan Chapel there and teaches children and adults as occupier of the schoolhouse. During these years Thomas Nevin learns portraiture from established photographer Alfred Bock (until 1867), and stereography with commercial photographer Samuel Clifford (late 1860s to late 1870s). He maintains concurrently his photographic studio in New Town with the business name of "Thos Nevin New Town" and advertises his stereographs of New Town and Kangaroo Valley for sale at the New Town Post Office.

1865: Thomas Nevin leases Alfred Bock's former dwelling and studio at 138-140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town (the property of A. E. Biggs, Victoria), and continues to use the business name, T. Nevin, The City Photographic Establishment, late A. Bock, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town.

1865: His sister Rebecca Jane Nevin dies at Kangaroo Valley, aged 18 yrs. His one surviving sister Mary Ann Nevin, applies to the Board of Education to establish a school at Kangaroo Valley with the support of amateur photographer and naturalist Morton Allport. Their father publishes a poem on the death of their sister Rebecca Jane Nevin (held in Special Collections, University of Melbourne).

1866: Thomas Nevin sets up the firm Nevin & Smith at the same premises in partnership with Robert Smith. Photographic work includes studio portraits, carte-de-visite vignettes, stereographs, and albums of views, tombstones, and residences. "Nevin & Smith" appears as a studio stamp and labels on these cartes and stereographs.

1868: The firm of Nevin & Smith celebrates the visit to Tasmania of Alfred Ernest Albert, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria by devising a rare Royal insignia stamp in 1868  (State Library of Victoria Collection, private collections). Thomas Nevin exhibits a photograph, "Melville St under snow, July 1868", at the Wellington Park Exhibition. They photograph groups at celebrations for Queen Victoria's birthday on May 27th 1868, as well as residences, tombstones, and visitors during the Duke's visit in January. The partnership with Robert Smith is dissolved in February 1868, and Nevin's liabilities are undersigned by his solicitor W.R. Giblin who issues Thomas Nevin with a colonial Royal warrant to provide documentary photographs for the Lands and Survey Department, renewed in 1872 to include work for the Municipal Police Office for the photographic documentation of prisoners.

1868: John Nevin, father of Thomas, Mary Ann and Jack (W.J.), publishes a poem entitled "My Cottage in the Wilderness" as a pamphlet (held at the Mitchell, SLNSW). Thomas Nevin takes a photograph of the family cottage as a visual adjunct to his father's poem which he exhibits at the Wellington Park Exhibition (Private Collection).

1869: Thomas Nevin produces photographs of model birds fixed to prize cards which were attached to the cages of winning entries at the Canary and Cage Bird show at the Hobart Alliance Rooms in May 1869, and again at the Tasmanian Poultry show at the Hobart Town Hall in August 1869. These photographs were deemed to be of high quality by both the press and the recipients of the prizes.

1870: In April, Thomas Nevin exhibits a stereograph of " A party at the Rocking Stone, Mt Wellington" at the Wellington Park Exhibition, and stereoscopic views and cartes-de-visite at the Town Hall Bazaar. In July, he advertises his latest panorama of Hobart, together with postal delivery of photographs mounted on calico. In November, he reproduces the Town Clerk's poster informing the public on fire bell warnings as a photographic code of signals in pocket-sized carte-de-visite format, priced sixpence.

1870 cont ...: younger brother Jack (William John) Nevin joins the civil service, aged 18 years, stationed at the Asylum, Cascades Prison for Males, Hobart. His service continues at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street as Constable John Nevin, "Gaol Messenger", a rank which covered his duties as photographer, and as a hospital "Wardsman" until his untimely death from typhoid while still in service, at 39 yrs old.

1871: Thomas J. Nevin marries Elizabeth Rachel Day (b. Rotherhithe, London, 1847 ), daughter of Captain James Day, master mariner, on July 12th at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley. Her parents Captain James Day and Rachael Pocock married in Hobart in 1841, witnessed by Captain James Day's brother-in-law Captain Edward Goldsmith, master mariner and merchant trader, with whom he had served as navigator and first mate on voyages between London and Australia 1830s-1850s. The Nevins move into the dwelling attached to the studio and glass house/gallery at 138-140 Elizabeth Street. They attend the grand soiree for the inauguration of the new Odd Fellows' Hall one week earlier, on 6 July 1871, and Thomas Nevin's commissioned photograph of the Odd Fellow's Hall is praised in the Mercury during July and August.

1871: Thomas J. Nevin, his wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (b. Rotherhithe 1847) and her sister Mary Sophia Day (b. Hobart 1853) are named in a London Chancery suit as legatees of their late uncle Captain Edward Goldsmith. Paternal uncle of the Day sisters, Captain Goldsmith of Chalk, Kent and Rotherhithe, London had married their father's sister Elizabeth Day of York at Liverpool, UK in 1829. Master mariner and merchant trader 1830s-1850s between London and Australia, Captain Edward Goldsmith was a friend of Sir John Franklin, and neighbour of Charles Dickens at Gadshill, Kent until his death in 1869.

1872: Between January 31st and 2nd February 1872, Thomas Nevin is commissioned to photograph parties of VIPS visiting Hobart on trips to Adventure Bay and Port Arthur. Their first child, Mary Florence Elizabeth Nevin, is born (known as May to living descendants) at 138-140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town. Notices and advertisements for Thomas Nevin's photographic items, some taken in collaboration with Samuel Clifford, appear frequently between 1872 and 1876 in the Mercuryand Tasmanian Times..

1872: June. Heavy rains and the great landslide at Glenorchy destroy houses, farms, businesses and streets and tore boulders and vegetation from the slopes of Mount Wellington. Within days of the landslide, Thomas Nevin is out and about taking photographs of the damage on commission for the Lands and Survey Division of the Hobart City Council in the company of Mr. Hull, Council Clerk for the district. Three extant stereographs by Nevin of flood damage are held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

1872: December. Thomas Nevin nominates his neighbour James Spence as candidate for the position of Alderman in the Hobart City Council Municipal elections at the Hobart Town Hall. James Spence was an experienced government contractor (waterworks, roads etc ) as well as the licensee of the Royal Standard Hotel, located next to Nevin's studio, at 142 Elizabeth St on the corner of Patrick Street Hobart.

1873-1876: Thomas Nevin works on contract and commission as police agent and photographer, with patronage and support from contracted coachline licensee Samuel Page; Police Superintendent Richard Propsting of the Municipal Police, Town Hall; John Swan, Inspector of Police at the Hobart Gaol; Dr John Coverdale, MD at the Hobart Gaol, later Surgeon-Commandant at the Port Arthur prison from December 1873 (Walch's Almanac 1873); and his solicitor, Attorney-General W. R. Giblin, to supplement prisoner records at the Hobart Gaol and the weekly police gazettes with photographs of prisoners who had re-offended, were arrested and sentenced on warrant, and who were discharged with various conditions. Thomas Nevin also takes a portrait of W. R. Giblin. Younger brother Jack Nevin is now a Constable at the Cascades Prison for Males (Mercury, 27 October, 1875).

1874: Thomas and Elizabeth Rachel Nevin's first son, christened with the same name as his father's, Thomas James Nevin jnr is also born at the residence attached to the City Photographic Establishment, 138-140 Elizabeth Street, on April 16th. Elizabeth Nevin's father, master mariner Captain James Day, acts as informant on the registration of the birth in May 1874 while Thomas Nevin is away on business at Port Arthur (60 kms south of Hobart).

1874: On December 24th, the Hobart Mercury published a notice that Thomas Nevin had performed a "Photographic Feat" by managing to photograph the entire front page of the 23rd December issue of the Mercury and fitting it legibly to a card 3 x 2 inches in size.

1875: Thomas Nevin's mother, Mary Ann Nevin (nee Dickson, b. 1810), dies on 15th April and is buried at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley. John Nevin snr applies to the Board of Education to establish a night school for males at the Wesleyan Chapel schoolhouse.

1875: Thomas Nevin is listed as a Committee member for the Anniversary Ball of the Loyal United Brothers' Lodge. He places advertisements in the Mercury soliciting the services of a medical practitioner for Lodge members and their families. Dr E. L. Crowther is appointed.

1876: In January, Thomas Nevin gains a further government contract over 24 other applicants. He is appointed "Keeper" at the Hobart Town Hall. The appointment notice appears in the Mercury 24th January, 1876. His employment as a civil servant continues under the auspices of the Office of Inspector of Police, the Attorney-General, the Mayor at the HCC, Town Hall, and the Premier's Office of W. L. Crowther.

1876: Thomas Nevin moves his family into the residence at the Hobart Town Hall. He maintains the use of his New Town studio to which he will return in 1880. T. J. [James] Nevin is used on his government contractor photographic stamp encircled by the Royal Arms insignia of the Supreme Court. Examples appear printed on the verso of cdvs of prisoners and portraits of prison officials and their families, eg. the McVilly children.

1876: Their third child and second son, Sydney John Nevin is born at the Town Hall, but lives for only four months. His death notice appears in the Mercury on 29th January 1877.

1877: Thomas Nevin's younger sister Mary Anne Nevin (b. 1846) marries John Carr, son of the late Captain Jas. Carr, on 12th May at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley.

1877: Younger brother Jack (William John) is now a Constable employed in administration at H.M. Gaol and assists older brother Thomas Nevin in producing prisoner identification photographs for prison and police authorities.

1878: March 14th. Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin's fourth child and third son William John Nevin is born at the Town Hall, Hobart. William later dies in an accident in 1927, aged 49 yrs.

1878: May 1st. Sister-in-law Mary Sophia Day, younger sister of Thomas' wife Elizabeth Rachel Day, and second daughter of Captain James Day, marries Captain Hector Charles Axup at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Hobart.

1878: On July 27th, Thomas Nevin's sister Mary Ann Carr nee Nevin dies aged 34yrs at Sandridge, Victoria, days after the birth of her daughter who was named after her, i.e. Mary Ann Carr. The infant is brought to Tasmania and cared for by Thomas Nevin's father John Nevin snr, who marries again soon after to widow Martha Salter nee Genge to provide a maternal presence for the child. The child is known as Minnie Carr, given the same moniker as her cousin, Thomas Nevin's last born daughter Minnie Nevin (b.1884).

1879: John Nevin, Thomas Nevin's father, marries again on 23rd October, aged 71 years old, to widow Martha Salter nee Genge, aged 46 years old, daughter of John Nevin's late lamented close friend and Wesleyan preacher, William Genge. His wife Mary Nevin nee Dickson and mother of Thomas and the three younger siblings had died in 1875. John Nevin snr and Martha Nevin formerly Salter nee Genge are now the guardians of his grand-daughter Minnie (Mary Ann) Carr, daughter of Thomas Nevin's sister Mary Ann who died soon after the birth in Victoria. John Nevin's grand-daughter Minnie Carr lives at Kangaroo Valley with him until his death in 1887. She then moves to Warwick Street Hobart with Martha Nevin, technically her step-grandmother, but she too dies of internal bleeding, aged just 20 yrs old, in 1898.

1879: Thomas Nevin is sworn in as a Special Constable in June during the confrontations between Catholics and Protestants at the Hobart Town Hall arising from the visit of the lapsed Catholic Canadian priest Charles Chiniquy.

1880: April 2nd. Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin's fifth child and fourth son George Ernest Nevin is also born at the Town Hall, Hobart.

1880: In early December Thomas Nevin is dismissed from the position of "Keeper" at the Town Hall, ostensibly for being drunk while on duty. The dismissal notice and full account of the incident with the "ghost" appears in the Mercury on 4th December, 1880. The Committee expresses regret at the dismissal from the Keeper position and mindful of his growing family, re-assigns Thomas Nevin to the New Town and City Police as assistant bailiff with warrant and photographic duties.

1881: John Nevin, Thomas' father, publishes a poem in pamphlet form, lamenting the death of his friend William Genge (held at the State Library of Tasmania). He is still resident at Kangaroo Valley.

1882: Father of Elizabeth Nevin nee Day and father-in-law of Thomas Nevin, master mariner Captain James Day (b. 1804), dies at Sloane Street, Battery Point, the home of his younger daughter Mary Sophia Axup nee Day.

1882: Brother Jack Nevin, officially Constable John or W. J. Nevin, testifies to an inquest into the accidental death of colleague Constable Green (Mercury 19 May 1882).

1883: Thomas Nevin is listed on the Electoral Roll at 21 Cottage Green, Battery Point belonging to J. Heathorn of Heathorn's Hotel, for whom Nevin produced commercial advertising. He maintains the New Town studio, working on commission for the New Town Territorial and Hobart Municipal Police as photographer, bailiff's assistant and warrant officer, as well as supporting his brother Constable John Nevin as the Hobart Gaol prison photographer.

1884: November 11th. Their sixth child and second daughter Mary Ann Nevin is born. Known as Minnie to living descendants, her father signs her birth registration with his occupation as "photographer" at New Town.

1884: Younger brother Constable William John (Jack) is listed on the Denison Electoral Roll as a resident and salaried employee of the Hobart Gaol. He continues to assist elder brother Thomas with the provision of prisoner identification photographs for the police and prison authorities, functioning also as the Gaol Messenger.

1886: Thomas Nevin is employed as assistant bailiff with the Municipal Police Office in the City and Supreme Courts. His warrants are supplemented with photographs of prisoners, including those condemned to death (Mitchell Collection SLNSW). He is charged with Breach of the Education Act in August for keeping his children at home during an outbreak of whooping cough. After testimony from Sub-inspector John Dorsett of the City Police, the charge is dropped.

1887: Father of Thomas and Jack, John Nevin snr dies (1808-1887). He is survived by his second wife, Thomas and Jack's stepmother, Martha Nevin, formerly Salter nee Genge.

1888: May 2nd. Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin's last born child of seven in total, the sixth to survive, and fifth son, Albert Edward Nevin is born at 236 Elizabeth Street, Hobart. Thomas Nevin signs a resolution to the House of Assembly bill to centralise the various police forces.

1891: Jack Nevin, born as William John Nevin and known officially as Constable John Nevin, the younger brother of Thomas J. Nevin, dies suddenly from typhoid fever while employed at the Hobart Gaol, aged 39 years (1852-1891). His death and burial certificates state he was both wardsman and  messenger.

1898: Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin's niece, Mary Ann Carr, known as Minnie Carr, daughter of Thomas Nevin's deceased sister Mary Ann Carr nee Nevin who is now resident with their father's widow, Martha Nevin nee Genge, at Warwick St. Hobart, dies of internal bleeding, aged 20 yrs.

1905: Thomas Nevin lists his occupation as "labourer" on the Commonwealth Electoral Roll for the seat of Denison, Tasmania. He is believed to have taken to carpentry and furniture removals (with William Hanson, a witness at his wedding in 1871), as well as horse training. Six members of Thomas Nevin's family are listed, and all are resident at 236 Elizabeth Street, Hobart:

1905 Denison electoral roll

1. Thomas Nevin senior (b. 1842 - d. 1923) - the word "senior" appears here to avoid confusion with his eldest son who bears the same name, Thomas James Nevin jnr. His occupation is listed as labourer. He is now 63 years old.

2. His wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin (b. 1847 - d. 1914) is now 58 years old. Her occupation given is domestic duties.

3. Their son Thomas James Nevin jnr (b. 1874 - d. 1948) is listed as a bootmaker.

4. Their daughter Mary Florence Elizabeth Nevin is listed as dressmaker. She was known as May Nevin to the family (b. 19 May 1872 - d. 4 June 1955).

5. Their son George Nevin is listed as a labourer (b. 2 April 1880 - d. 30 July 1957).

6. Their son William Nevin is listed as a shop assistant (b. 14 March 1878 - d. 28 Oct 1927).

The two youngest children born to Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin - Mary Ann (Minnie Nevin 1884-1974) and Albert Edward Nevin (1888-1955)- were not yet of voting age.

1907: Two marriages: Sonny and Minnie: -
Eldest son Thomas James ("Sonny") Nevin marries Gertrude Jane Tennyson Bates (1883-1958) on 6th February at the Wesleyan Chapel, Hobart. They travel to the USA to join Gertrude's family who migrated to California in 1907.

Youngest daughter Mary Ann ("Minnie") Nevin marries James Henry Alfred Drew, carrier and van proprietor, formerly of Richmond Tasmania, on 28th March 1907 at the bride's parents residence, 270 Elizabeth St. Hobart. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. J. H. Cain. Minnie Drew gave birth to five children between 1908 and 1914: Reginald, Jean, Joyce, and twins Lola and Lorna.

1911: Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin's grandson is born to his first son Thomas jnr and wife Gertrude in Hobart in 1910. He is named Walter Sydney Tennyson Nevin, but dies on August 16th 1911.

1914: Elizabeth Rachel Nevin, Thomas' wife, dies suddenly, aged 67 years at their residence, No. 270 Elizabeth St. Hobart. Her funeral notice appears in the Mercury on June 18th, 1914.

1917: Albert Edward Nevin, their last born child, marries Emily Maud Davis on March 5th at Launceston.

1923: Thomas J. Nevin the photographer dies at the family residence, No. 270 Elizabeth St. Hobart in March, aged 80 years. His funeral notice appears in the Mercury of March 12th, 1923. He was buried with the rank of "photographer".

Burial 1923
When Thomas Nevin's wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day died in 1914, her funeral procession was advertised as leaving the same residential address as Thomas Nevin's in 1923, viz. No. 270 Elizabeth-street, Hobart.

Funeral notice for Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923)
Mercury 12 March 1923

NEVIN- Funeral of the late Mr. Thomas Nevin, of 270 Elizabeth-street, will move from his residence on Monday Morning (This Day) at 9.30 o'clock, arriving at Cornelian Bay Cemetery at 10 o'clock. CLARK BROS., Funeral Undertakers 17 Argyle-street. 'Phone 1077

Not entirely following the printed format, Thomas J. Nevin's burial registration nevertheless records key details:

Hobart Public Cemetery
No. 3422 (Schedule C.)
Answers to be written opposite to the following Questions at the time of giving Orders
1. What denomination? Ch of England and
2. Name of deceased? Thomas Nevin
3. Late Residence of deceased? Photographer
4. Rank of deceased? Elizabeth St
5. Age of deceased? 80 years ...months...days
6. Where born? Ireland
7. Minister to officiate? Rev Summers[?]
8. Day of funeral/ 12th March 23
9. What Hour? 9.30 o'clock am
10. No. of Grave on plan issued? No. 277 Compartment DD
11. If a public grave?
12. If a private grave, what width? Yes feet
13. " " length? 8 x 4 feet
14. What depth?
15. If first or second interment? ...feet
16. Nature of disease, or supposed cause of death? ....
CLARK BROS [stamp]
Signature of William Clark
Representative or Undertaker
Order received this ... day of ... 19
at ... o'clock
£. s. d
Interment in Public Grave ...
Land for Private Grave, 8ft x 4 ft 5: 4: 0
Sinking 6½ feet, or re-opening .. 1: 15: 0
Label .....: 2: 6
Certificate of Right of Burial ... : 12 6
Permission to erect Monument : 10 0
£6: 4: 0

Descendant, author and webmaster of these privately owned Thomas J. Nevin weblogs - KLW NFC Imprint (current URLS below) - gratefully acknowledges the contributions and encouragement of a dedicated group of descendants of photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923), his wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day (1847-1914) and her sister Mary Sophia Axup nee Day (1853-1942). Their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren have provided invaluable information from their collective memory and rare memorabilia from family collections which have formed the basis since the late 1990s in developing online these three Thomas J. Nevin weblogs:-
In addition, scans, documents, and photographs from private collectors have been especially welcome. Extensive research for these weblogs over decades has involved collecting and evaluating original archival and newspaper documentation as well as unearthing and sourcing the many hundreds of holdings of Thomas J. Nevin's photographic works in public and private collections, the pursuit of which is augmented every few months with the discovery of yet another early photograph by Thomas J. Nevin, another beautifully crafted poem by his father John Nevin snr, or more revelations about the voyages, friends and neighbours of Elizabeth Rachel Nevin's and Mary Sophia Axup's illustrious uncle, Captain Edward Goldsmith (1804-1869).

Many thanks to all contributors. Last updated October 2021.
NB: this information is subject to updates, revisions, and additions at any time.

From the KLW NFC Group

Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2005-2021 ARR

Australia's first MUGSHOTS

PLEASE NOTE: Below each image held at the National Library of Australia is their catalogue batch edit which gives the false impression that all these "convict portraits" were taken solely because these men were transported convicts per se (i.e before cessation in 1853), and that they might have been photographed as a one-off amateur portfolio by a prison official at the Port Arthur prison in 1874, which they were not. Any reference to the Port Arthur prison official A. H. Boyd on the NLA catalogue records is an error, a PARASITIC ATTRIBUTION with no basis in fact. The men in these images were photographed in the 1870s-1880s because they were repeatedly sentenced as habitual offenders whose mugshots were taken on arrest, trial, arraignment, incarceration and/or discharge by government contractor, police and prisons photographer T. J. Nevin at the Supreme Court and adjoining Hobart Gaol with his brother Constable John Nevin, and at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall when appearing at The Mayor's Court. The Nevin brothers produced over a thousand originals and duplicates of Tasmanian prisoners, the bulk now lost or destroyed. The three hundred extant mugshots were the random estrays salvaged - and reproduced in many instances- for sale at Beattie's local convictaria museum in Hobart and at interstate exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship Success in the early 1900s. The mugshots were selected on the basis of the prisoner's notoriety from the Supreme Court trial registers (Rough Calendar), the Habitual Criminals Registers (Gaol Photo Books), warrant forms, and police gazettes records of the 1870s-1880s. The earliest taken on government contract by T. J. Nevin date from 1872. The police records sourced here are from the weekly police gazettes which were called (until 1884) Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1871-1885. J. Barnard, Gov't Printer.

Supreme Court convictions