Instruction as home entertainment:The Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series

This article was published in The Magic Lantern Journal, Number 25, December 2020, pp4-7 and was based on a paper read at the conference ‘Camera Education: Photographic Histories of Visual Literacy, Schooling, and the Imagination’, at the Photographic History Research Centre, De Montfort University, Leicester, June 2020.
Box for Our Colonies, c.1906. W. Butcher & Sons

Among the thousands of magic lantern slides offered up for sale on auction sites every year, there are always hundreds of chromolithographic transfer slides. They are often of hackneyed fairy tales or cliched subjects, so they are not highly sought after. But the fact that they are so readily available, one hundred and twenty years after they were first produced, indicates that they must have played an important role in the visual culture of the period.

One of the biggest producers of these slides was the British firm W. Butcher & Sons.  In November 1900 the magic lantern trade journal announced that Butcher’s were:

at present making a special feature of lithographic slides pertaining to the Boer war. Of course slides made by this process cannot for a moment compare with photographic slides, but all things considered they are good of their kind, and with, say, an oil light, will look very well when projected on a screen. These sets of slides are known as the Junior Lecturers’ series, and are sold at a low price.[1]

Like many British magic lantern firms, Butcher’s was vertically integrated. It imported and manufactured apparatus — the ‘device’ — and also produced the imagery which their lanterns would project — the ‘content’. Within a few years they had given the series the brand name ‘Primus’.

The genius of the Primus series was that it brought together several different new industrial processes and emerging social developments into the one package. The slides themselves were an offshoot of the massive chromolithography industry which had been growing in popularity throughout the nineteenth century. The image was drawn in separate colours onto multiple stones, but instead of being printed in registration onto paper or cardboard for posters or packaging, the layers of pigment were printed onto a transparent decal, and then transferred to a square of glass.[2] The decorated boxes in which the slides were packaged made use of developments in cardboard manufacture and offset printing in coloured inks to look attractive in the retail space of a fancy goods store, and to be of a comparable price to the toys and games with which they were competing.

Through chromolithographic transfer a diverse range of different pictorial sources from different periods could be brought together into sequences of visually homogenous images. The format of eight numbered and boxed slides could be expanded progressively into different series and sets, comprising a large ‘library’ in many different genres. Eventually there were almost 200 different boxed sets.[3]

The series was aimed not at the assembly hall but at the home parlour. Most importantly, the Primus series was interactive, children could unfold the prepared readings included in the box and read them as the corresponding slide was passed though the lantern. Supported by this systematic structure a child with a ‘Primus’ lantern and slides could become a ‘Junior Lecturer’ for their friends and proud parents. As their catalogue claimed:

The colouring is of the finest quality and is very transparent, so that the slides give perfect results with the minimum amount of light, making them very suitable for home use where incandescent gas or electric light bulb is the only illuminant available. The sets are all carefully selected, and offer a varied choice of humorous, historical, educational, and religious subjects suitable for both young and old. The slides are prepared in many instances from specially taken photographs — others from drawings by famous artists. In every case the draughtsmanship and colouring leave nothing to be desired. […] [They] are accompanied by a well written and interesting lecture.[4]

The series was launched with five sets about the Boer War.[5] As many scholars have argued, the Boer War was a media watershed because public demand for up-to-the-minute war news catalysed well established media such as the telegraph, illustrated newspapers, music halls and the magic lantern with new technologies such as the cinematograph and half-tone newspaper reproductions. This produced an emergent media space where different kinds of immediate experience were developed for audiences who were reconstituting themselves in new ways.[6]

‘The Boer War of 1900’, advertisement in The Optical Magic Lantern Journal and Photographic Enlarger, November 1900, x.

A 1901 newspaper advertisement from the Victorian town of Castlemaine illustrates the changing structure of this crowded media space very well. It promises Australian made films of that year’s Federation celebrations as well as ‘All the Latest War Films’ from South Africa. But more encouragingly for the audience, it also promises ‘No dreary lecture, no magic lantern’.[7] In this context, while capitalising on the established educational prestige of the lantern lecture, the Junior Lecturer slides were also careful to place themselves not in the ‘dreary’ world of old, but in the new world of ‘the most interesting entertainment’.

‘Theatre Royal, Castlemaine’, Mount Alexander Mail, Victoria, 7 February 1901, 3.

To keep ‘up to the minute’ Butcher’s contracted with illustrated newspapers such as the The Graphic and The Sphere. The Sphere was a new illustrated newspaper that had begun in late 1900 as a response to the public’s appetite for images of the War. The monochrome paintings made by the special war artists it sent to South Africa were translated into square colour slides by artists for the Junior Lecturers’ Series. 

‘The Latest from the Front. Colonel Thorneycroft’s Gallantry at Spion Kop’, The Sphere, 24 February 1900, 8.
Thorneycroft at Spion Kop, c1901, Chromolithographic transfer slide number 12, ‘The Siege of Ladysmith’, chapter 2, The Boer War of 1900, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.

Such immediacy continued to be an aspect of the Junior Lecturers’ Series. For instance, in November 1901 both the death of Queen Victoria and the accession of King Edward was marked in a trade advertisement for ‘New Lithographic Slides’.[8]

‘New Lithographic Slides’, advertisement in The Optical Magic Lantern Journal and Photographic Enlarger, November 1901, v.

 Fourteen years later, with the beginning of the First World War, the series once more began to produce up to the minute historical sets. Eventually numbering ten sets, twice as many as for the Boar War, The World War slides once again relied on illustrated newspapers such as The Sphere, but illustrated newspapers no longer used paintings by war artists, but photographs by press photographers.

‘The Crowd Outside Buckingham Palace Awaiting Britain’s Declaration of War’, The Sphere, August 1914.
The Crowd at Buckingham Palace, August. 4, 1914, 1915. Chromolithographic transfer slide number 4 from ‘A Call to Arms’, chapter 1, The World War, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.

However, the set on which I now want to concentrate is not ‘historical’, but putatively educational. That set is ‘Australia’, the third ‘chapter’ in the series Our Colonies, which also included Canada, New Zealand, India and South Africa. Although produced around 1906, the Australian set seems to reside in some a-temporal time of empire — a time which was already disappearing because of Federation in 1901. To provide context for this anachronistic colonial imagery I want to look at three other British and American lantern slide firms who sent photographers to Australia during this period.

Firstly, in the late 1890s the Scottish firm George Washington Wilson hired an Aberdeen photographer Fred Hardie to travel by train and horse cart across Australia. He eventually produced five sets of photographic slide lectures with accompanying readings, one on each colony except Western Australia.[9]

Secondly, between 1909 and 1910 the artist and photographer Hugh Fisher travelled though Australia on an itinerary organised by the geographer Halford Mackinder. He was gathering lantern slides for the Colonial Office Visual Instruction Committee who were producing forty-two lectures to show the empire to British children. Of these, the committee eventually produced eight lectures on Australasia.[10]

Although part of the Colonial Office, The Visual Instruction Committee had to enter the highly competitive business of lantern slide retailing as a semi-commercial body in order to manufacture and distribute their slides. Their slides and textbooks were made and sold by Butcher’s main rival, the firm Newton & Co. The entire set of 489 hand coloured photographic slides from Australasian could be purchased from Newton’s for 39 pounds — a hefty nineteen pence a slide. For the ordinary consumer this price compared unfavourably to the boxes of eight Butcher’s Junior Lecturers’ slides which retailed from a mere two shillings a box, less than a sixth of the price.[11]

Thirdly, in 1907 and 1908 the American stereograph company Underwood & Underwood sent their photographer James Ricalton to New Zealand and Australia.[12] The stereographs he shot became the ‘Australia and New Zealand Tour’ within the Underwood & Underwood ‘Travel System’. This system boxed printed guides, maps, stereoscopes and sets of sequenced stereographs into faux book bindings.

Like the other firms, Underwood & Underwood also saw value in a systematic global library of stereoscopic and lantern views aimed at educating children. A few of the stereographs Ricalton shot became a small part of their massive visual library marketed as: The World Visualized for the Class Room: 1000 travel studies through the stereoscope and in lantern slides classified and cross reference for 25 different school subjects. Of the 1000 slides in the set, a grand total of nineteen, less than two percent, came from Australasia and Oceania[13].

However, when it comes to Our Colonies, unlike George Washington Wilson, the Colonial Office, or Underwood & Underwood, Butcher’s did not send a photographer to Australia. Nor did they contract with specific magazines such as The Sphere and The Graphic as they had for their historical sets. And nor, as they claimed in their publicity, were the slides prepared from ‘specially taken photographs’ or ‘drawings by famous artists’. Rather, the images seem to have been found, more or less at random, from within the vast pool of colonial imagery which had been produced and reproduced over the previous thirty years, and which was swirling around in the London printing trade.  

The Illustrated London News was one useful source for the slides. For instance, an engraving from 1876 of the Prince of Wales killing a tiger did duty forty years later as the source both for a slide in the set ‘India’, and in the set ‘Wild Animals and How They Are Hunted’. And another Illustrated London News engraving, the entirely fanciful Kangaroo Hunting in Australia of 1876, also did duty thirty years later to represent Australian sport in Our Colonies.

Shooting a Tiger, c1905. Chromolithographic transfer slide number 5, ‘Wild Animals and How They Are Hunted’, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.
Tiger Hunting with Elephant, c1905. Chromolithographic transfer slide number 32, ‘India’, chapter 4, Our Colonies, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.
‘The Prince of Wales Tiger-Shooting with Sir Jung Bahadoor: The Critical Moment. From a Sketch by One of Our Special Artists’, Illustrated London News, 25 March 1876.
‘Kangaroo-Hunting in Australia’, Illustrated London News, 9 September 1876.
A Kangaroo Hunt, c1906. Chromolithographic transfer slide number 23 from ‘Australia’, chapter 3, Our Colonies, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.

The opening image of the set, ‘Government House Melbourne’, comes from twenty years before 1906, from an 1886 book Australian Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil.[14] This introductory slide demonstrates the extraordinary laziness of the series as a whole. The text reports that the colonies had recently federated to become a commonwealth, but rather than showing the grand exhibition buildings in which the first parliament had been held, the slide shows the unprepossessing residence of the Governor of Victoria, whose powers had recently been diminished by Federation. 

Government House, Melbourne, c1906. Chromolithographic transfer slide number 17 from ‘Australia’, chapter 3, Our Colonies, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.
‘Government House, Melbourne’, by Skelton and W. Measum in Australian Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil, BY HOWARD WILLOUGHBY OF ‘THE MELBOURNE ARGUS’, WITH A MAP AND ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS FROM SKETCHES AND PHOTOGRAPHS, ENGRAVED BY E. WHYMPER AND OTHERS. LONDON: THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY. 1886.
Sheep Shearing, c1906. Chromolithographic transfer slide number 20 from ‘Australia’, chapter 3, Our Colonies, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.
‘Sheep Shearing’, by the French drawers and engravers Achille Sirouy and C.H. Barbant in Australian Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil, BY HOWARD WILLOUGHBY OF ‘THE MELBOURNE ARGUS’, WITH A MAP AND ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS FROM SKETCHES AND PHOTOGRAPHS, ENGRAVED BY E. WHYMPER AND OTHERS. LONDON: THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY. 1886.

The same 1886 book is the source for the background image in the final slide of the set, ‘Australian Aborigines’. The foreground image comes from even earlier, from the South Australian photographer Samuel Sweet’s 1880 album ‘Views in South Australia’. The eye-watering racism of the lecture children were meant to read out as they projected this slide contrasts with the slightly more enlightened lecture produced by the geographers at the Colonial Office Visual Instruction Committee for their equivalent slide. For Butcher’s: ‘The Australian “black fellow” is a savage of a decidedly low type: he has a steady objection to work, has no ideas on the subject of crops, but is marvellously acute as a tracker, and an adept at throwing that peculiar weapon — the boomerang’.[15] But the attitude of the Colonial Office was more nuanced: ‘The hostility of the native to the European colonists often arose from their interference with his natural food supply, or to their careless ignorance of his semi-religious ideas or customs, such as the tabu’.[16]

‘Native Encampment’, in Australian Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil, BY HOWARD WILLOUGHBY OF ‘THE MELBOURNE ARGUS’, WITH A MAP AND ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS FROM SKETCHES AND PHOTOGRAPHS, ENGRAVED BY E. WHYMPER AND OTHERS. LONDON: THE RELIGIOUS TRACT SOCIETY. 1886. LONDON
Samuel Sweet, Aboriginal man, Point McLeay Mission, South Australia. c1880. Albumen silver photograph in the album Views in South Australia.
Australian Aborigines, c1906. Chromolithographic transfer slide number 24 from ‘Australia’, chapter 3, Our Colonies, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.

Although most imagery in Our Colonies was decades old, some images were contemporary, but they were taken by photographers who were themselves retailing a retrospective, nostalgic view of Australia. The source images for the slide In the Bush were the popular ‘bushmen’ photographs of Nicholas Caire. At this time Caire was himself also turning his stock of negatives into lantern slides and postcards for the expanding tourist trade. Caire’s customers, who were day tripping office workers catching the train from the bustling modern metropolis of Melbourne to nearby beauty spots, saw these photographs as nostalgic evocations of a disappearing past.

Nicholas Caire, Big tree camp, King Parrot Creek, Victoria, Australia, hand coloured albumen silver photograph, c1903. Collection: National Gallery of Victoria.
In the Bush, c1906. Chromolithographic transfer slide number 22 from ‘Australia’, chapter 3, Our Colonies, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.

In conclusion, the vertically integrated W. Butcher & Sons were extraordinarily successful in appropriating images from a residual nineteenth century print and photographic culture and an emerging twentieth century media culture for the cheap chromolithographic slides which they used to sell their magic lanterns into homes around the world. In this respect they, and other firms like Underwood & Underwood, are like later media conglomerates such as computer game corporations, where the development of the technology is integrated with the development of content.

‘Butcher & Sons, Farringdon Ave’, in The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal, Vol 1, 1905, 280.

But, even in the context of the period, the imagery of the Junior Lecturers’ Series was egregiously reactionary, ignorant, racist and, frankly, lazy. This was because their business model was not the middle-brow visual instruction of George Washington Wilson, nor the imperial geography of the Colonial Office, nor the virtual travel of Underwood & Underwood. Although they borrowed the rhetoric of ‘education’, their ultimate purpose was not, in fact, educational. It was to sell apparatus into homes, and ‘education’ was a useful way for children to activate the apparatus by enacting the new role of ‘Junior Lecturer’. For decades the watchwords for ‘reputable’ magic lanternists had always been ‘instruction AND entertainment’, but Butcher’s innovation was to turn those familiar watchwords into: ‘instruction AS entertainment’.

Martyn Jolly


[1] ‘Butcher’s Lithographic Slides’, The Optical Magic Lantern Journal and Photographic Enlarger, November 1900, 150.

[2] Hermann Hecht, ‘Decalcomania: some preliminary investigations into the history of transfer slides’, The New Magic Lantern Journal, vol. 1, no. 3 (March 1980), 3-6.

[3]  See examples at the following websites: lucerna.exeter.ac.uk; luikerwaal.com; ehive.com (enter the search term Heritage in the Limelight)

[4] Quoted in Mike Smith, ‘Primus Slides’ in David Robinson, Stephen Herbert, Richard Crangle, eds., The Encyclopedia of the Magic Lantern (Rippon: The Magic Lantern Society, 2001), 240.

[5] Some of these slides are viewable online as a performance by the University of Sheffield Library, see:   https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/library/special/boerwar.

[6] Simon Popple, ‘”Fresh from the Front”: Performance, war news, and popular culture during the Boer war’, Early Popular Visual Culture, 8:4 (2010), 401-418. Denis Condon, ‘Receiving news from the seat of war: Dublin audiences respond to Boer war entertainments’, Early Popular Visual Culture, 9:2 (2011), 93-106.

[7]  Advertisement, Mount Alexander Mail, Victoria, 7 February 1901, 3.

[8] Advertisement, The Optical Magic Lantern Journal and Photographic Enlarger, November 1901, v.

[9]  Mark Butterworth, ‘Imaging a Continent: George Washington Wilson & Co.’s lantern slides of Australia’, Early Popular Visual Culture 7:3 (2009) 253-271.

[10] James Ryan, ‘Visualizing Imperial Geography: Halford Mackinder and the Colonial Office Visual Instruction Committee, 1902-11’, Ecumene 1:2 (1994), 157-176.

[11] A. J. Sargent, Visual Instruction Committee Handbook, Australasia, Eight Lectures Prepared for the Visual instruction committee of the Colonial Office (London: George Philip & Son, 1913).

[12] Advertiser (Adelaide), 1 January 1908, 8; Daily Telegraph (Sydney) 11 September 1907, 6.

[13] Frank McMurry, The World Visualized for the Class Room: 1000 travel studies through the stereoscope and in lantern slides classified and cross reference for 25 different school subjects (New York: Underwood &Underwood, 1915).

[14] Howard Willoughby, Australian Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil, By Howard Willoughby of ‘THE MELBOURNE ARGUS’, with a map and one hundred and seven sketches from sketches and photographs, Engraved by E. Whymper and others. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1886)

[15] Printed reading to ‘Australia’, c1906, chapter 3, Our Colonies, Primus Junior Lecturers’ Series, W. Butcher & Sons.

[16] A. J. Sargent, 13.

Daguerreotypes and Chromatropes

We’ve just received a few advanced copies of our book Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle: The Global Career of Showman Photographer J. W. Newland in the post. It was wonderful writing it with Elisa deCourcy. And now we’ve got it, it is so great seeing the daguerreotypes and magic lantern shows we discuss reproduced side by side as they should be.

We are going to give it a bit of a launch on 18 February next year, so for those in Canberra put it in your diaries, we are even going to put on a magic lantern show under the trees at PhotoAccess.

You can get the ebook if you forgo a few coffees. Or the hard copy if you save up a bit.

https://www.routledge.com/Empire-Early-Photography-and-Spectacle-The-Global-Career-of-Showman-Daguerreotypist/deCourcy-Jolly/p/book/9781003104780

Reviews

“Driven by some extraordinary research, this fascinating book traces the itinerant career of nineteenth-century photographer and projectionist J.W. Newland as he restlessly traverses the world in search of images and customers. Offering a new way of understanding the early history of photography, deCourcy and Jolly embed Newland’s story in an intricate global network of spectacle and exchange. The end result is a brilliant exposition of one man’s working life that also illuminates the advent of the modernity in which we all still live.”

Professor Geoffrey BatchenUniversity of Oxford  

“This fascinating book turns on its head ideas about Empire, and indeed colonial, visual culture. As it makes clear, many more people encountered images of Empire in theatres, music halls and popular lectures than through fine art. Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle helps address the common over-emphasis on paintings and prints when describing how empires illustrated themselves. The reality, as this book demonstrates, is a much more messy, less linear, often technology-based conflation of images, which are teased out through this eminently readable text. By its focus on someone apparently inconsequential, something of real substance and importance emerges.”

Richard Neville,Mitchell Librarian, State Library of New South Wales 

Original, thoughtful, and remarkably readable, this book presents a fascinating story of international and inter-imperial mobility during the mid-nineteenth century. In tracking the itinerant career of the daguerrotypist J. W. Newland across the margins of global empires, deCourcy and Jolly consider the significance of the showman as a shrewd negotiator of colonial and other networks, finding a mixed media space at work in territories from the United States, to the Pacific Islands, Australia and India. An extraordinary global research project in its own right, this book discovers a diversifying trade in cultural goods in this period, offering enlightening insights not only to media and art historians, but also to observers of contemporary global media spaces.”

Professor Joe Kember,University of Exeter

Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle takes the career of British daguerreotypist and showman J.W. Newland as a central device to explore the volatile world of image production, consumption and transnational cultural exchange in the mid nineteenth century. Exquisitely researched and written with extensive illustrations, this book draws on international archival material, images, historical and biographical data to consider the relationship of one itinerant photographer to the global explosion of image making and visual culture. Through this important and richly illustrated study deCourcy and Jolly reveal both the historical and ongoing relevance of photography as a global visual media.”  

Associate Professor Donna West BrettUniversity of Sydney

A dazzling and dynamic journey through a world on the brink of an enormous expansion in global visuality.  Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle is a major achievement, offering a new way of understanding the intertwined complex of optical technologies, visual experiences, practices, and audiences across multiple sites of empire in the 1840s and 1850s.” 

Associate Professor Jennifer TuckerWesleyan University 

Much more than an episode in the history of photography, Elisa deCourcy and Martyn Jolly’s book is an excavation into the emergence of modern media culture. The biography of photographer and performer James William Newland is turned into a chapter of the wider biography of entertainment media, providing us with a powerful testimony of how the new appetite for mediated entertainments emerged and developed across the globe in the mid nineteenth century.” 

Dr Simone Nataleeditor of Photography and Other Media in the Nineteenth Century 

Won’t You Buy My Pretty Flowers

This video was made for Fiona Hooton  to project on the walls of Verity Lane Canberra, as part of Localjinni’s AlleyHart video walk for Contour 556 2020, Canberra’s public art biennial, and the  Design Canberra 2020 festival. The song was arranged and sung by Jacqui Bradley and Krista Schmeling. In a video studio they stood either side of the screen as I projected the original slides through a pair of magic lanterns, using the bat wing dissolver to dissolve between the slides, and a piece of black cardboard with a hole in it to ‘iris’ in on details. The video was shot and assembled by Amr Tawfik and then projected from a mini projector. The life-model magic lantern slides were made by Bamforth & Co after 1897. The song was written in 1877 by George W. Persley and Arthur W. French.

Won’t You Buy My Pretty Flowers
Projection in Verity Lane, Canberra.

Free Download! ‘Frontier and Metropole, Science and Colonisation: The Systematic Exhibitions of Richard Daintree’

Daintree detail

Figure 21. Detail from Centennial Photographic Company, Philadelphia International Exhibition, ‘Queensland Court, Philadelphia ’76, Evening Before Opening’, 1876.

Abstract

Richard Daintree is well known as an Australian colonial photographer and geologist. I look at six international exhibitions he created from 1872 to 1879 that promoted the colony of Queensland by systematically integrating spectacular grids of painted photographs with displays of scientific samples. By analysing installation views, I argue that the popular success of these exhibitions came from the use of various new photographic technologies within the space of the exhibition, where the frontier directly interacted with the metropole. Further, I argue that Daintree’s personal passion for the science of geology profoundly structured the colonialist narrative of his exhibitions, which combined the latest apparatuses of scientific knowledge and imperial communication, revealing him to be an innovative and internationally significant creator of synthesised exhibitionary experiences.

Martyn Jolly (2020): Frontier and Metropole, Science and Colonisation: The Systematic Exhibitions of Richard Daintree, History of Photography Journal.

‘Martyn Jolly’s Phantasmagoria of Magic Lanterns’, 2020

CMAGJollyINSTALL1CMAGJollyINSTALL7CMAGJollyINSTALL14CMAGJollyINSTALL3

The exhibition ‘Martyn Jolly’s Phantasmagoria of Magic Lanterns’ at the Canberra Museum and Gallery, 2020, was curated by Virginia Rigney, designed by Greer Versteeg, and installed by Gary Smith.

We displayed 560 slides in a large light box.  Grids of 85x85mm square holes, each and 13mm apart, were laser cut into sheets of 4.5mm black acrylic. These were laid on 3mm clear backing acrylic, loaded with slides arranged in groups and sequences, and topped with a cover sheet of clear 2mm acrylic. The sandwiches were then taped around the edges and vertically held by a wooden frame against the inside doors of four bays a large display case. The front of the doors were covered with self-adhesive black vinyl except for the blocks of slides. The slides were lit from the front by ambient LED light, which allowed visitors to see the labels, and they were backlit through UV filtering film by fluorescent light bounced off the back wall of the case.

Interpretative handouts nearby were keyed with thumbnail images to allow visitors to find information and commentary about individual slides and slide sets within the overall grid.

As well as square glass slides, wooden mechanical slides were also displayed on glass shelves. These were lit from the front with LED lights, while the transparent painted glass images were lit from behind with electroluminescent panels trimmed down to size from 100mm x 100m sheets. The colour of each EL panel was corrected with an 81a photographic filter, and UV filtered with film. Each sandwich of EL panel, filter and UV  film was lightly attached to the rear of the slide with conservation tape and individually wired into a low voltage circuit.

These displays were augmented with:

  • Conventional displays of magic lanterns.
  • A circular digital projection on a facing wall introduced visitors to the exhibition, transitioning between text and images.
  • Four video screens showed performance documentation and demonstrating the mechanical slides, chromatropes and panoramic slides.
  • Enlargements of an Australian lantern slide and a Primus slide box.

Interpretive text was included in the digital projection:

For more information search Heritage in the Limelight

Portrait of Hemi Pomara as a young man: how we uncovered the oldest surviving photograph of a Māori

Portrait of Hemi Pomara as a young man: how we uncovered the oldest surviving photograph of a Māori

Elisa deCourcy, Australian National University and Martyn Jolly, Australian National University

It is little wonder the life of Hemi Pomara has attracted the attention of writers and film makers. Kidnapped in the early 1840s, passed from person to person, displayed in London and ultimately abandoned, it is a story of indigenous survival and resilience for our times.

Hemi has already been the basis for the character James Pōneke in New Zealand author Tina Makereti’s 2018 novel The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke. And last week, celebrated New Zealand director Taika Waititi announced his production company Piki Films is adapting the book for the big screen – one of three forthcoming projects about colonisation with “indigenous voices at the centre”.

Until now, though, we have only been able to see Hemi’s young face in an embellished watercolour portrait made by the impresario artist George French Angas, or in a stiff woodcut reproduced in the Illustrated London News.

Drawing on the research for our forthcoming book, Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle: the global career of showman daguerreotypist J.W. Newland (Routledge, November 2020), we can now add the discovery of a previously unknown photograph of Hemi Pomara posing in London in 1846.

This remarkable daguerreotype shows a wistful young man, far from home, wearing the traditional korowai (cloak) of his chiefly rank. It was almost certainly made by Antoine Claudet, one of the most important figures in the history of early photography.

All the evidence now suggests the image is not only the oldest surviving photograph of Hemi, but also most probably the oldest surviving photographic portrait of any Māori person. Until now, a portrait of Caroline and Sarah Barrett taken around 1853 was thought to be the oldest such image.

For decades this unique image has sat unattributed in the National Library of Australia. It is now time to connect it with the other portraits of Hemi, his biography and the wider conversation about indigenous lives during the imperial age.

‘Hemi Pomare’, 1846, cased, colour applied, quarter-plate daguerreotype, likely the oldest surviving photographic image of a Māori.
National Library of Australia

A boy abroad

Hemi Pomara led an extraordinary life. Born around 1830, he was the grandson of the chief Pomara from the remote Chatham Islands off the east coast of New Zealand. After his family was murdered during his childhood by an invading Māori group, Hemi was seized by a British trader who brought him to Sydney in the early 1840s and placed him in an English boarding school.

The British itinerant artist, George French Angas had travelled through New Zealand for three months in 1844, completing sketches and watercolours and plundering cultural artefacts. His next stop was Sydney where he encountered Hemi and took “guardianship” of him while giving illustrated lectures across New South Wales and South Australia.

Angas painted Hemi for the expanded version of this lecture series, Illustrations of the Natives and Scenery of Australia and New Zealand together with 300 portraits from life of the principal Chiefs, with their Families.

In this full-length depiction, the young man appears doe-eyed and cheerful. Hemi’s juvenile form is almost entirely shrouded in a white, elaborately trimmed korowai befitting his chiefly ancestry.

The collar of a white shirt, the cuffs of white pants and neat black shoes peak out from the otherwise enveloping garment. Hemi is portrayed as an idealised colonial subject, civilised yet innocent, regal yet complacent.




Read more:
To build social cohesion, our screens need to show the same diversity of faces we see on the street


Angas travelled back to London in early 1846, taking with him his collection of artworks, plundered artefacts – and Hemi Pomara.

Hemi appeared at the British and Foreign Institution, followed by a private audience with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. From April 1846, he was put on display in his chiefly attire as a living tableau in front of Angas’s watercolours and alongside ethnographic material at the Egyptian Hall, London.

The Egyptian Hall “exhibition” was applauded by the London Spectator as the “most interesting” of the season, and Hemi’s portrait was engraved for the Illustrated London News. Here the slightly older-looking Hemi appears with darkly shaded skin and stands stiffly with a ceremonial staff, a large ornamental tiki around his neck and an upright, feathered headdress.

An idealised colonial subject: George French Angas, ‘Hemi, grandson of Pomara, Chief of the Chatham Islands’, 1844-1846, watercolour.
Alexander Turnbull Library

A photographic pioneer

Hemi was also presented at a Royal Society meeting which, as The Times recorded on April 6, was attended by scores of people including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and the pioneering London-based French daguerreotypist Antoine Claudet.

It was around this time Claudet probably made the quarter-plate daguerreotype, expertly tinted with colour, of Hemi Pomara in costume.

The daguerreotype was purchased in the 1960s by the pioneering Australian photo historian and advocate for the National Library of Australia’s photography collections, Eric Keast Burke. Although digitised, it has only been partially catalogued and has evaded attribution until now.

Unusually for photographic portraits of this period, Hemi is shown standing full-length, allowing him to model all the features of his korowai. He poses amidst the accoutrements of a metropolitan portrait studio. However, the horizontal line running across the middle of the portrait suggests the daguerreotype was taken against a panelled wall rather than a studio backdrop, possibly at the Royal Society meeting.

Hemi has grown since Angas’s watercolour but the trim at the hem of the korowai is recognisable as the same garment worn in the earlier painting. Its speckled underside also reveals it as the one in the Illustrated London News engraving.

Hemi wears a kuru pounamu (greenstone ear pendant) of considerable value and again indicative of his chiefly status. He holds a patu onewa (short-handled weapon) close to his body and a feathered headdress fans out from underneath his hair.

We closely examined the delicate image, the polished silver plate on which it was photographically formed, and the leatherette case in which it was placed. The daguerreotype has been expertly colour-tinted to accentuate the embroidered edge of the korowai, in the same deep crimson shade it was coloured in Angas’s watercolour.




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The remainder of the korowai is subtly coloured with a tan tint. Hemi’s face and hands have a modest amount of skin tone colour applied. Very few practitioners outside Claudet’s studio would have tinted daguerreotypes to this level of realism during photography’s first decade.

Hallmarks stamped into the back of the plate show it was manufactured in England in the mid-1840s. The type of case and mat indicates it was unlikely to have been made by any other photographer in London at the time.

‘New Zealand Youth at Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly’, wood engraving, The Illustrated London News, 18 April 1846.

Survival and resilience

After his brief period as a London “celebrity” Hemi went to sea on the Caleb Angas. He was shipwrecked at Barbados, and on his return aboard the Eliza assaulted by the first mate, who was tried when the ship returned to London. Hemi was transferred into the “care” of Lieutenant Governor Edward John Eyre who chaperoned him back to New Zealand by early December 1846.

Hemi’s story is harder to trace through the historical record after his return to Auckland in early 1847. It’s possible he returned to London as an older married man with his wife and child, and sat for a later carte de visite portrait. But the fact remains, by the age of eighteen he had already been the subject of a suite of colonial portraits made across media and continents.

With the recent urgent debates about how we remember our colonial past, and moves to reclaim indigenous histories, stories such as Hemi Pomara’s are enormously important. They make it clear that even at the height of colonial fetishisation, survival and cultural expression were possible and are still powerfully decipherable today.

For biographers, lives such as Hemi’s can only be excavated by deep and wide-ranging archival research. But much of Hemi’s story still evades official colonial records. As Taika Waititi’s film project suggests, the next layer of interpretation must be driven by indigenous voices.


The authors would like to acknowledge the late Roger Blackley (Victoria University, Wellington), Chanel Clarke (Curator of the Maori collections, Auckland War Memorial Museum), Nat Williams (former Treasures Curator, National Library of Australia), Dr Philip Jones (Senior Curator, South Australian Museum) and Professor Geoffrey Batchen (Professorial chair of History of Art, University of Oxford) for their invaluable help with their research.The Conversation

Elisa deCourcy, Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow 2020-2023, Research School of Humanities and the Arts, Australian National University, Australian National University and Martyn Jolly, Honorary Associate Professor, School of Art and Design, Research School of Humanities and the Arts, College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

Edward Colston

As Percy Shelley knew when he wrote Ozymandias, the iconic is defined by the iconoclastic. In its brazen or marmoreal defiance of mortality every civic statue to this or that  ‘King of Kings’ already has encoded into it its own death as a negative potentiality waiting to be fulfilled. Those who made history through destruction are already constructing the process which will make them in their turn colossal wrecks. As Shelley knew too, passion and mockery are perpetual. I vote that Edward Colston gets winched out back on to the  Bristol dock. But every year he gets dunked again, in a new exuberant  ritual as regular as the seasonal tides and annual currents of ocean voyages.