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Tuesday 12 July 2016

Sending those Parthenon marbles home

British newspapers are reporting that a group of MPs will intro­duce a bill​—​The Parthenon Sculptures (Return to Greece) Bill​—​on the 200th anniversary of the removal of the so-called Elgin marbles from the Parthenon in Athens.

The bill is being supported by a dozen MPs from across the La­bour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National, Welsh, and Con­ser­vat­ive parties. It will be introduced by Mark Williams MP who said:

These magnificent artefacts were improperly dragged and sawn off the remains of the Parthenon.
     This Bill proposes that the Parliament should annul what it did 200 years ago. In 1816 Parliament effectively state-sanctioned the improper acquisition of these impressive and important sculptures from Greece.
     It’s time we engaged in a gracious act. To put right a 200-year wrong.

This is a long-running story, which I follow by subscribing to the excellent Elginism blog.

Sally playing with her Nintendo in the Parthenon gallery at the British Museum, September 2010. Next time we want to see those sculptures we might have to go to Athens. Let’s hope so.

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Monday 20 June 2016

A sad end for Bourne & Shepherd

One of the longest-running photographic studios in the world has come to an end. The business began in 1840 when a studio was established in Kolkata (or Calcutta, as the British called it then). It grew into the most successful commercial photographic firm in India, called Bourne & Shepherd from 1866 until its closure the other day.

At its peak the business had studios in Shimla (Simla), Kolkata (Calcutta) and Mumbai (Bombay), and did tremendous busi­ness in studio portraiture, views of places, and records of social and political events. It passed through a long series of owners before its sale to the last one, Jayant Gandhi.

In 1991 a fire in the building the studio had oc­cu­pied in Kolkata since the nineteenth century destroyed a large part of the valu­able archive of negatives​—​a huge setback for the business. Mr Gandhi was able to keep going by doing film processing and print­ing but, with the move to digital pho­to­graphy and online display of images, that business has shrunk and the aging owner cannot continue. So Bourne & Shepherd, Artists & Pho­to­graph­ers has closed.

cabinet card

Pippa Strachey surrounded by her liveried rickshawmen, cabinet card photo by Bourne & Shepherd, circa 1900. Phillipa (Pippa) Strachey was one of the or­gan­isers of the first large suffragist procession in London, in 1907. [National Por­trait Gallery]

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Friday 17 June 2016

The little lighthouse

The other day I was in Caloundra to talk to the Friends of the Caloundra Lighthouses. I am working with local architect Roger Todd on an updated conservation management plan for the old and new lighthouses (built in 1896 and 1968) that stand side by side at Caloundra. The Friends are doing this work with a her­it­age grant from the Sunshine Coast Council, aug­men­ted by pro bono contributions from Roger and me.

The Friends have recently had a part in producing a children’s illustrated book about the lighthouses, and I was delighted to be given a copy. It reminded me of reading to my daugh­ters​—​it brought fond memories of that special pleasure of reading stories together, and of the countless times we read one or other of our favourite books.

The little lighthouse was written by John Bradley and illustrated by Diane Somers-Cook, with acknowledgment to Mrs Debbie Camp­bell’s 2014 Year Two class at Caloundra State School for assistance with editing. It tells the story of the Caloundra light­houses​—​a story that starts with a ship wreck, tells about the con­struc­tion of the original lighthouse in 1896, its replacement by the new light in 1968, followed by removal of the old light to a dif­fer­ent site and its eventual return to its original site.

John Bradley’s text is a good yarn, well told in a way kids will enjoy​—​whether they read it themselves or someone else reads it to them. Diane Somers-Cook’s watercolour illustrations evoke the Caloundra setting beautifully. Most of the scenes are full spreads, as you can see above. It is a soft-cover book of 24 full-​colour pages, saddle stitched, in a comfortable size for reading in bed.

You can buy the book from local bookshops or online. I re­com­mend it to you​—​especially if you or any kids you read to have any connection with the Sunshine Coast.

My father took this photo, a Kodachrome slide, on a summer evening when we had a holiday in a rented house in Arthur Street, just below the light­house at Caloundra. That’s me on the right, holding my little sister Fiona’s hand. I think the year was 1959. It was the first time I had seen a light­house with a flashing light. I remember the pairs of light beams sweeping around the horizon to seaward. And I recall my father pointing out the course of the shipping channel that runs close to the coast of Bribie Island, and explaining why the ships needed to follow that course. I now understand that he must have been familiar with that channel, from his time as a sig­nal­man on a minesweeper.

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Friday 27 May 2016

Christopher Hume Moore, photographer

Back in the year two thousand and two, when I started to take a more serious interest in the few old photographs I owned, I up­loaded a web gal­lery of cartes-de-visite by Queensland pho­to­graphers. By early 2003 there were 18 photographs on display there, representing the work of ten studios.

Portrait of an unidentified couple​—​front and back of a carte-de-visite by C H Moore, Kent Street, Maryborough, Queensland.

I have just uploaded this carte-de-visite by C H Moore. It is the 120th item added to the gallery, so I’ll mark the occasion by giv­ing it special at­ten­tion here. Like all of these little pictures it has more than one story behind it.

When I began this project my essential reference was Alan Davies’ and Peter Stanbury’s book The mechanical eye in Aus­tralia: photography 1841-1900 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1985). The book includes a detailed list, with dates and places, of professional pho­to­graphers who worked in Australia before 1900, and amateurs before 1880. The list was compiled by researchers who extracted much of the information from historical newspapers on microfilm.

Since the National Library of Australia’s wonderful Trove di­git­ised newspapers project came online I have been able to do my own newspaper research, in a less-tedious way, and without leaving my desk.

The front of the carte-de-visite.

In C H Moore’s photograph the two subjects are well dressed and carefully posed in a conventional arrangement. The image is sharply focussed, there is no sign of movement blur, head-clamps (if they were used) have been skillfully hidden, and the drapery on the left is an attempt to signify a certain style. But an error in aiming the camera has cropped off the stylish curtain, and re­vealed that the picture was probably shot on a verandah dressed up with a backdrop and a piece of linoleum. I im­me­di­ately guess that this is the work of an itinerant photographer who carted his equipment from place to place, rather than doing steady business in a well-set-up studio. C H Moore’s entry in The mechanical eye has travelling photographer at the bottom, which fits.

A quick search of Queensland newspapers, via Trove, told me more about Christopher Hume Moore’s practice as a pho­to­grapher. He comes across as an energetic fellow who was willing to adapt and to follow opportunities​—​important qualities for a photographer in Queen Victoria’s time.

Moore’s name first shows up in the Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Adver­tiser of 18 May 1867, where he ad­vert­ised that he had bought the photographic business of Ash­bury Bright​—​a business that had operated in Maryborough for the previous four years.

On 11 September 1867 the Chronicle included this advertorial piece:

Our Photographic Artist, Mr Moore, has lately made several additions to the apparatus of his studio; amongst other things a very large camera for taking large portraits and views. Yesterday we had the pleasure of seeing some specimens of the production of this new instrument, amongst others of a view of the Commercial Bank, which is admirably taken, as they all are​—​the picture being sharp and clearly defined, and artisticallv placed with a view to effect. We recommend persons who wish to perpetuate the flitting image of themselves, or of their abodes as they appear to-day, to avail themselves of the aid which Mr Moore proffers them.

In January 1868 Moore ran big advertisements in the Chronicle urging readers to come to his studio to have their portraits taken without delay, since he was planning to be away for two months taking photographs around the gold diggings. By early February he had engaged another photographer and was offering pho­to­graphic services in Nashville (the place we now call Gympie) as well as in Maryborough.

Perhaps he over-extended himself, and ran into cash-flow problems​—​still a pitfall for expanding small businesses. The Gympie Times and Mary River Mining Gazette of 20 Feb­ru­ary 1869 printed this:

A deed of composition has been re­gistered, whereby C H Moore, Photographic artist of Mary­bor­ough, covenants to pay his creditors two instalments in the £ the first forthwith, and the second on the 23rd July.

Things were going better for him in September 1869 when the governor of Queensland, Colonel Sir Samuel Blackall, while on a visit to Maryborough, stopped at Moore’s studio to be pho­to­graphed. A few days later the photo­grapher advertised veritable portraits of His Excellency the Governor at a shilling each for cartes-de-visite, two shillings and sixpence for whole plate prints, and seven shillings and sixpence for prints Mounted in hand­somely polished Cedar Frames.

Perhaps the story of Governor Blackall’s visit to Moore’s studio in Mary­bor­ough, jotted in a researcher’s notes, was mis­in­ter­preted and turned into the statement in The mechanical eye that Moore was based at Blackall (the town) in 1869. I could not find any mention of Moore in the Blackall district in the con­tem­por­ary newspapers that are searchable in Trove.

It appears that Christopher Moore maintained a connection with Ashbury Bright, from whom he bought the photographic business in Maryborough. The Chronicle carried this advertorial piece on 17 September 1868:

Our photographist, Mr Moore, has purchased of Mr A Bright his splendid set of negatives of views taken on the several stations of the Wide Bay and Burnett. Having also taken some very fine views himself, Mr Moore intends pub­lish­ing a set of photo­graphs of scenes in town and country, which may be bound in albums or kept in port­fo­lios, and which will form one of the most appropriate and handsome presents that could be made by anyone living in the district to a distant friend. Mr Moore ought to be well patronised, and we hope will be, for his enter­prise and skill.

The Chronicle of 28 December 1871 reported news from the town of Gayndah, including this:

Messrs Moore and Harris, photographers, from Mary­bor­ough, have arrived in town, and have taken up their quar­ters at the Gayndah Hotel. Mr Moore is well known in Gayndah, and well liked, and it is hoped that he and his partner will do as well as Mr Moore did on his previous visit to us. They visit Mount Perry before returning to Maryborough.

In April 1872 C H Moore had been in Mount Perry, the site of a newly-established copper mine and smelter, as the Chronicle reported:

We have seen some very pretty views of Mount Perry and its neighbourhood, taken by Mr C H Moore, photographer, late of this town. They convey a most pleasing idea of the romantic scenery of that locality, which from all we can learn, abounds in attractions to the lover of the pic­tur­esque. The representations of the township, smelting works, &c., in their present primitive condition, are, per­haps, not equally gratifying to the eye, but they are in­ter­est­ing as illustrations of the rude beginnings from which an interest of vast magnitude is even now springing, and will, in years to come possess an historical value which will always secure for them a brisk demand.

In the same article it was mentioned that Thomas Mathewson, Photographic Artist, was coming to Maryborough to take portraits. Photography was a competitive business.

Small advertisements in the Chronicle in December 1874 announced that C H Moore had taken over the studio in Kent Street, Maryborough, lately occupied by Mr E H Forster. In the same paper, Forster ran larger advertisements announcing his new premises in Adelaide Street.

My final quote is from the Chronicle, 19 October 1875:

It is with deep regret that we have to report the sudden death of Mr C H Moore, the photographer. Friday morning he was in the enjoyment of his usual health, and embanked on board the steamer Effie with a number of excursionists to attend the tea-meeting at the Mary River Saw-mills. While going up the river he complained of being unwell, and mentioned that he believed that one of his bilious attacks’ was coming on. Shortly after complaining he became worse, and had to lie down. He had lost all consciousness before he reached the landing place. It is not pleasant to record that the invalid was carried to a house to which he was refused admittance, the charitable inmate fearing lest the sick man should bring infection with him. Finally the residence of a good Samaritan was found, and here poor Moore for a while found shelter. However, he never rallied. He was conveyed back to town by the steamer, and died at about seven o’clock the same evening. Death doubtless resulted from heart disease, from which the deceased had long been a sufferer He was only 30 years of age, and leaves a wife and four young children entirely unprovided for.

In November 1875 the Chronicle included an invitation to an amateur concert in aid of C H Moore’s widow and family, and a series of advertisements for his photographic equipment and stock.

Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 16 November 1875.

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Sending those Parthenon marbles home
A sad end for Bourne & Shepherd
The little lighthouse
Christopher Hume Moore, photographer

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