Saturday, March 7, 2020

Natal Photographers continued: Burgess, Brock and Bowman

Brock's advert in Natal Almanac 1876; the ad tells us he was still
producing cartes-de-visite which could be hand-coloured and even made to 'Life Size'.

William Henry Burgess (mentioned in Russell's History) was one of the earliest photographers in Natal. The Burgess family came to Natal on the ship Rydal in 1856. By 1857 he was taking 'photographic likenesses' by the collodian, or wet-plate, process. His studio was at West Street, Durban.

Burgess, in line with other photographers at that date, had another string to his bow. He was a dispensing chemist. He was also a lay preacher and in 1858 moved to Verulam, Natal, where a number of Wesleyan immigrants had settled. He went to the diamond fields in 1871, returning to Natal in the late 1870s and practising as a chemist at Richmond. He left Natal again in the 1880s, dying in the eastern Transvaal in 1886.

Precisely because he was such an early Natal photographer, there is no advertisement in the Natal Almanac which began to be published later than the year Burgess left for Verulam (1858), though further research may reveal other sources and tell us more about this interesting colonist.

James Saumarez Brock was almost contemporaneous with Burgess, as Brock was in Durban from 1859. In 1862 he took over J N Wheeler's studio in Pietermaritzburg and here he was in partnership with William Bowman, 1863 - 1864. The partnership was dissolved in 1864.  In the late 1860s to early 1870s, Brock lived in the Byrne valley taking individual portraits, family groups and views. Things weren't going too well and Brock entered insolvency proceedings in 1865 - 1867. Emerging from this unfortunate phase, he advertised a Photographic Studio at 24 Longmarket Street, Pietermaritzburg next to the Crown Hotel. Brock took over Bowman's studio at 10 Longmarket Street in 1872 and by 1875 Brock was at 24 Loop Street, Pietermaritzburg.

William Bowman continued his studio, without Brock, as the Natal Photographic Company at 23 Church Street, Pietermaritzburg and Smith Street, Durban from 1865. He was advertising his New Cerrotype Process from 1866 - 1872 and was living at 8 Berg Street, Pietermaritzburg.

Whether the New Cerrotype Process was correctly named in this advert for Bowman and Co is uncertain. It may be an error for Ferrotype, more popularly called a Tintype, in which the plate was a sheet of metal. These were favoured by travelling photographers e.g. at the diamond diggings.

No comments: