Sunday, October 9, 2011

Natal Photographers: T. Crawford Erwin

Maud Alice Gadsden nee Swires ca 1917-18

There are instances where knowing the name of the photographic studio isn't particularly helpful for dating purposes. This photograph was taken by T. Crawford Erwin, who had a studio in Durban for almost 50 years. He first puts in an appearance in local directories in 1906 as 'Erwin and Graham' at Cuthbert's Buildings, West Street, Durban.  By 1908 the erstwhile Mr Graham is no longer in the picture and Erwin appears alone. The following year, 1909, Erwin apparently decided to give his studio a name, the 'Kan Studio' and it is this title which is shown on the above vignette - a style of photo which remained popular from the 1890s and throughout the first two decades of the 20th c.

The cool, simple, white cotton shirt worn with a dark soft bow at the neck was a favourite for ladies' day- wear in Natal. By this date - ca 1917 - the frivolous riot of tucks and lace and broderie anglaise trimming which had been prevalent in the 1890s had quietened down. Women were now to be taken more seriously. Her hat is broad-brimmed and practical for the summer heat, but is rescued from being too severe by the scalloped net frill and flowers around the edge of the brim. Its general shape is reminiscent of the 'Boss of the Plains' hat from which Baden-Powell developed the well-known scouting headgear.


Todd Martini said...


I have a photo of my Grandfather (Harold Cohen Kent) w/ his Mother & Stepfather that was taken in 1905 or 1906 and already has the "The Kan" Studio Durban mark on it. It couldn't have been taken later than that, as my Grandfather and his family left South Africa in June 1906. Here's a scan of the photo:

Hope this helps.

-- T

Todd Martini said...

Found another photo with "The Kan" Studio mark. This one may have been taken even earlier than the previous one:

Mole said...

Thanks so much for your comments and links. I'm sure you're right about the date of your family group, looking particularly at the lady's outfit - with the ostrich trimmings and that gravity-defying hat. A really splendid photograph. The brown card mount was popular with photographic studios in the early 1900s in Natal.