Monday, 11 April 2011

George Hoby, Part 2: Forging a Photographic Career

Part 1 described how George Hoby arrived in Taranaki with his family in the 1850s, only to have their farming operations interrupted by the disturbances between settlers and Maori over land.

Image © National Library of New Zealand and courtesy of Papers Past
The Taranaki Herald, Saturday, October 15, 1859

Although the evidence is only circumstantial, it seems likely that George Hoby was the "novice" under instruction in New Plymouth, referred to in advertisements by Hartley Webster in October 1859 [18]. Webster originally trained in London, and then operated a daguerreotype and collodion portrait studio in Auckland. He had been touring New Zealand for a couple of years, spending the previous ten months in New Plymouth [19,20], during which time he had been offering collodion portraits [21]. Having now "disposed of his Photographic Business to a novice," he was "under engagement to remain a few weeks longer, to give his pupil efficient instruction, and takes this opportunity of giving publicity to a new process of taking portraits on paper." This seems slightly early for carte de visites, but Webster was probably up with the latest trends, so he may have been a very early adopter of the format.

Image © National Library of New Zealand and courtesy of Papers Past
The Taranaki Herald, Saturday, 19 January 1861

George Hoby officially opened for business in New Plymouth in January 1861 [4,22]. His advertisements in the local newspaper suggest some difficulties coordinating his military duties with the need to be on hand for potential clients [23]. The high price of half a guinea charged for each picture indicate that he was probably still using a collodion positive (ambrotype) or, less likely, daguerreotype, format rather than the "new" carte de visite-sized albumen prints.

Image © National Library of New Zealand and courtesy of Papers Past
The Taranaki Herald, Saturday, 16 February 1861

There is also some question as to who his clients might have included, since many of the town's usual inhabitants had temporarily decamped. It is possible that the Imperial regiments recently arrived in Taranaki were his intended market, although the surviving carte de visite portraits of soldiers attributed to Hoby in the Puke Ariki Archives collection appear to have been taken a few years later. It is possible that his two eldest sons George (junior) and Oliver assisted in the studio during this early period.

Image © National Library of New Zealand and courtesy of Papers Past
Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Wednesday, 13 November 1861

In mid-October 1861 George Hoby returned to Nelson and entered into a partnership with William Davis, an established photographer who had already been operating in that town for almost a year [24,25], and working from the premises of the Misses Jay, a general goods shop on Bridge Street.

Image © Alexander Turnbull Library and courtesy of Timeframes
Township of Nelson from Britannia Heights, Drawing by Edmund Norman, 1860

In December of that year Davis and Hoby together submitted a set of panoramic views of the city of Nelson, probably similar to that shown in the 1860 pencil drawing shown above [26], to the International Exhibition of 1862 in London [27]. In April 1862, George's second son Oliver Hoby advertised for several weeks in the Taranaki Herald that he was resuming photography [28]. Perhaps he was doing so on behalf of his father, because the latter had ceased his travels back and forth across the Cook Strait, while business in Nelson appeared to be thriving. Apart from advertising cartes de visite, portraits on glass and paper and copying of pictures and photographs, George offered to send portraits free to London [29] and the colouring and finishing of portraits "in W. Davis's well known style." [30]

Image © National Library of New Zealand and courtesy of Papers Past
Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, Saturday, 20 December 1862

In December 1862 the arrangement at the Misses Jay was dissolved [31], and George built new premises in Trafalgar Street. William Davis advertised separately, although in the same street, so perhaps they were still working together [32]. The price for ambrotypes had by now more than halved, to five shillings, and Hoby was offering cartes de visite at six for a pound, possibly reflecting increased competition in Nelson.

It is unfortunate that I have been unable to locate any photographs which are both clearly attributable to Hoby and dateable to the early part of his career, but it is hoped that some will turn up in due course.

Continued in Part 3.

References

[4] Hoby, Arthur (1937) Memoirs of Arthur Hoby, Transcript of original held by Alexander Turnbull Library, Courtesy of Philip Duke.

[18] Portraits for transmission (Advertisement), Taranaki Herald, 15 October 1859, p.1.

[19] H. Webster, Photographic Artist, Devon Road (Advertisement), Taranaki Herald, 25 December 1858, p.2.

[20] Hartley Webster, New Zealand Photographers Database, Auckland Council.

[21] Collodion Portraiture. H. Webster, Devon Road., Taranaki Herald, 29 January 1859, p.4.

[22] Photographic Likenesses (Advertisement), Taranaki Herald, 19 January 1861, p.1.

[23] Photographic Portraits (Advertisement), Taranaki Herald, 16 February 1861, p.1.

[24] A Card. W. Davis, Photographer (Advertisement), Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 29 August 1860, p.2.

[25] Miscellaneous (Notices), Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 19 October 1861, p.1.

[26] Norman, Edmund (1860), View of the Township of Nelson, from Britannia Heights, Pencil and wash drawing on sheet (223 x 293 mm), ID: A-113-035, Alexander Turnbull Library, & Timeframes.

[27] Nelson Products for the International Exhibition, Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 12 December 1861, p.3.

[28] Photographic Portraiture (Advertisement), Taranaki Herald, 5 April 1862, p.2.

[29] Photography (Advertisement), Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 29 March 1862, p.1.

[30] Photography (Advertisement), Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 26 April 1862, p.2.

[31] Dissolution of Partnership, Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 20 December 1862, p.3.

[32] Merchandise (Advertisements), Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, 20 December 1862, p.1.

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