Monday, October 17, 2011

Early Natal Photographers

The earliest documented photographer working in Natal was William Henry Burgess, a ‘dispensing chemist’ by profession, who had arrived on the Rydal in 1856 and advertised in October 1857 as follows in the Durban press:

Photographic Likenesses
Taken by the Collodian Process* …
West Street, Durban, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
until further notice.
Hours from half past 10 a.m. till 3 o’clock p.m.
Terms Cash.

By early 1858 Burgess had moved to Verulam on the Natal North Coast where he continued as a chemist, though not, as far as we know, as a photographer.

Other early Natal photographers included J S Brock, Bowman, Fry & Co., James Pulleyn (listed as a watchmaker of West Street in the 1856-57 Durban electoral roll) and James Lloyd.

*George Russell notes in his History of Old Durban, ‘alas! the collodian process … has yielded to our climate, for few of their works survive them. They are now, with rare exceptions, faded ghost shadows of the persons and scenes which they took’.

Wet collodian negatives – glass plates – could be used to make prints on albumen paper: however, these printed images tended to turn yellow and fade, as Russell points out above. 

Brock and Bowman in partnership, 1864

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