DUFTY, Francis Herbert (1846-1910)
Photographic portrait of a Tokelau woman from the Line Islands, circa 1875.
Albumen print photograph, carte de visite format, 103 x 63 mm, verso with imprint of ‘F.H. Dufty, Photographer, Levuka, Fiji’, and contemporary inscription in ink: ‘Tokalau [sic] Woman, Line Islands’; both the albumen print and mount are in fine condition.
Francis Herbert Dufty was an English-born photographer who arrived in Fiji in May 1871, having already spent a number of years as a photographer in the colony of Victoria with his other brother, Edward. In December 1871 he was joined in Fiji by his teenage brother Alfred. Over the following two decades, through studio and outdoor photography, the Dufty Brothers – with Francis as the principal photographer – documented the Fijian Islands’ indigenous peoples and their vanishing traditional way of life, and the islands’ rugged, tropical scenery. Under his own name, Francis Dufty also took studio portraits of indigenous visitors to Levuka, including people from the Solomon Islands, Samoa, and various Polynesian outliers.
According to the inscription on the reverse of this superb portrait, the sitter is a young Tokelau woman – a rare subject indeed for such an early photograph. Tokelau, which consists of three coral atolls, lies to the north of the Samoan Islands and to the east of Tuvalu (Ellice Islands); its indigenous culture is Polynesian. The second part of the inscription records that the woman has come to Levuka from the more remote Line Islands, which lie to Tokelau’s northeast. The reason for the woman having being in the Line Islands – or Levuka, for that matter – is unclear (perhaps she had an association with a missionary group, or a European trader?). However, the carte de visite is an important primary document evidencing the movement of indigenous islanders around the western and central Pacific on European ships in this period.