West Australian Aborigines 1883
[Title from caption on mount]. Four albumen print photographs, each in carte de visite format (three are 90 x 60 mm; one 85 x 55 mm), mounted recto of a leaf of thick card removed from a nineteenth century album; inscribed in ink at centre of mount ‘West Australian Aborigines 1883’; the album owner decorated this page by pasting down several small pressed flower specimens (now only residual), two of which affect the corner margins of two of the albumen prints; the albumen print at lower left is in fine condition with excellent tonal range; the remaining three prints are in good condition, with slight loss of contrast; verso with full signatures of five women who were presumably the close friends of the album owner: Amelia Baston, Lucy H. Cooper, Annie Morrisey, Jane M. Waldeck, and Louise Beaver; the names have a Western Australian connection (see below).
Three of these rare carte de viste format photographs, all portraits of Noongar people, were taken in the same studio (they share an identical painted backdrop), probably around 1880. They are likely to have been taken by either Alfred Kirk Chopin or James Manning, Junior. The fourth – a superior print, bottom left – was taken in a makeshift travelling photographer’s studio, probably at a significantly earlier date (1870-75) judging by the print quality and tonal range, which is more typical of the 1860s than 1880s. It was possibly taken by amateur photographer and artist Henry Prinsep.
The names of the women on the back of the album page have a strong Western Australian connection. For example, Jane Marian Waldeck (born Leach), 1850-1929, married Robert Newton Waldeck in Perth, Western Australia, in 1872 (Robert was born on November 7 1844, in Perth, and was a storekeeper by occupation); Amelia Baston (Laffan), 1865-1940, third daughter of George Baston, married Dr. Laffan in Geraldton on September 30 1892, in what the Perth newspaper the Inquirer and Commercial News (October 1 1892) described as a ‘fashionable marriage’; Louise Beaver appears to have been a member of the Fremantle family of that surname.
It seems reasonable to speculate that although the album page was sourced in Scotland, the album itself was compiled by a female who was residing in Perth, Western Australia in 1883.