Saturday, 2 August 2008

E.S. Richards of Wellington

Over the next few days, I'll be featuring some photographic studios from New Zealand. Today's portrait is of an adventurous young man, identity unknown, dressed in his best (probably only) suit, and ready to take on the world.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The carte de visite mount has been substantially trimmed, but fortunately this does not appear to have affected the photograph too much. The young man stands with right hand confidently placed on his hip, hat in his left, in front of an elaborately painted scenic backdrop showing a romantic view of what could easily be Wellington Harbour, prior to development. The scene is a typical New Zealand one - the cabbage trees, or ti kouka (Cordyline australis), on the right are characteristic - carried out in a style which was common in the days when many of the photographers had moved to the profession from being artists. Indeed many artists were employed in the studios, to both paint the backdrops and to retouch or colour the portraits. This landscape backdrop is reminiscent of one which I featured in a previous post of a portrait from another colonial studio, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The logo on the reverse of the card mount is a simple belt-and-buckle design, typical of the early to mid-1860s, centrally placed and showing the photographer's name as "E.S. Richards, Wellington." Helen Cormack, in a post on the GENANZ-L Mailing List, states that E.S. Richards was established in Wellington in 1862, but does not provide a source for this date. Auckland Library's Photographers Database shows an E.S. Richards as being associated with the Wellington School of Photography at Lambton Quay, Wellington in 1866. In an advertisement in the Evening Post (6 Apr 1866, courtesy of Papers Past) Richards offered portraits in the new "Diamond Cameo" style.

Image © and courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand

This subsequently became the studio of the partnership of Batt & Richards, which operated from 1867 until January 1874, although they sold the Lambton Quay premises in March 1871. In 1874, it is noted that the Richards half was, in fact, H.T. Richards.

Terry Foenander, in his Index of Nineteenth Century Photographic Portraits describes several well dated cdvs in his collection by this studio. There is one from 1866 which is ascribed to "E.S. Richards" and several ranging in dates from 1866 to 1879 which are marked with the studio name, "Batt & Richards."

Monumental Stories includes a portrait of Rangi Topeora, a chieftainess of Ngàti Toa who died in 1869, attributed to E.S. Richards.

Tony Cairns includes in his online family tree a portrait of Emily May Morris (1854-1892), attributed to E.S. Richards of Greytown, and possibly taken in the early to mid-1870s, although the subject lived in the Masterton area. This leads me to wonder whether Richards moved around a bit.

The Auckland Art Gallery has a cdv portrait of a girl of mixed Maori and European ancestry attributed to E.S. Richards of Upper Hutt, probably in the mid- to late 1860s.

If you have any old portraits by the studios mentioned in this article, I'd be very pleased to feature them here.

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