Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Robert Clifford of Dunedin

Robert Clifford opened his first studio in Dunedin in 1865 (Knight, 1881), having emigrated from England.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett Payne

This carte de visite was probably taken in the late 1860s, and has all the characteristic features of that period. It is a full length portrait of a young man in a standard studio setting with a plain wall (only a skirting board breaks its uniformity), a plush velvety curtain draped on the left, and an ornate side table. He is carrying a cap in his right hand and that, together with the vertical stripe down the seam of his trousers, suggests to me that he is a seaman of some sort. Dunedin and nearby Port Chalmers were and still are, after all, major South Island ports. In his left hand, he appears to be holding a small book, perhaps a photograph album.

Clifford had regular entries in various Wise's Directories from 1870 until 1873(Auckland City Library's Photographers Database). Knight (1981) shows a separate listing for Clifford & Clifford in 1870 - this may have been Mrs. Clifford, who is later shown as being in charge of the hand colourists. In August 1873, he went into partnership with fellow photographer John Richard Morris, one of five brothers, four of whom became photographers, as Clifford & Morris. Their studio premises were known as the Otago Portrait Galleries, and were located in the Royal Arcade in Fleet Street.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett Payne

This head-and-shoulders cameo portrait of a balding man in a jacket, collar and tie, with a moustache and fine set of Dundreary whiskers.

The following advertisement was in the Otago Witness in 5 December 1874 (Papers Past):

"Clifford and Morris, Otago Portrait Galleries, Fleet street, Dunedin, Who are now acknowledged to the the leading Photographers of this City, having increased their premises, and secured the newest appliances from England and the Continent, are Finishing Portraits in all the most approved styles. The Rembrandt and Shadw Pictures, Now the Fashionable Portraits in the United Kingdon, the Continent, and America, are taken at the above Establishment. Instantaneous Portraits of Children enequalled in Otago. The Printing Department is conducted by a First-class Hand Colouring and Finishing under the supervision of Mrs. Clifford.
Studio up-stairs. Operator - Mr Robert Clifford. Open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Studio on Ground-Floor. Operator - Mr J.R. Morris. Open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
No advance in prices, viz., from 12s 6d per dozen. Post free to all parts of the Colony. N.B. - All persons visiting our Galleries can make a selection Gratis from Photograhs of five hundred Celebrities.
Clifford and Morris, Fleet street (late Arcade)

In mid-1875 a third photographer Charles Spencer joined the firm, which then became known as Clifford, Morris & Co. The partnership seems to have lasted until about 1880, when Clifford once more resumed trading under his own name. In the 1880s, trade directory listings showed the firm as Clifford & Co. or R. Clifford & Co. From 1883 until 1888 a branch studio was operating in Thames Street, Oamaru. By 1899, the firm had become R. Clifford & Son, and in 1900 the Oamaru branch was operating once more.

Jeef Pyle has a series of cdvs by R. Clifford and Clifford & Morris on his web site devoted to Early New Zealand Postcards.


Knight, Hardwicke (1981) New Zealand Photographers. A Selection. Allied Press.


  1. Keep up the great work! - this is a great reference resource on NZ historoy.

  2. Thank you, Tim. Always good to hear from those who are reading the articles and appreciate the work. Regards, Brett

  3. Excellent reference on the Clifford & Morris partnership.

  4. Thanks Jimmy, and what an interesting collection of photographs you have!


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