Friday, April 18, 2014
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Early portraits of B.C. First Nations and provincial officials go to auction

By Randy Shore, Vancouver Sun

A collection of photographs believed to have belonged to B.C.’s first lieutenant-governor, Richard Clement Moody, are being offered for auction by the British antiques dealer Bonhams in London.

The collection of albumen stills of Moody, his staff and his New Westminster home includes two portraits of First Nations men that are among the earliest known photographs of B.C.’s indigenous people, according to the Bonhams lot description.

Then a professional photographer, the album’s owner Jonathan Robbins bought the album at a sale of household items in Dorchester around 1973, as an example of early photography.

Robbins eventually linked the album to Moody after 40 years of research on surviving documents and letters from Moody’s service in B.C. in museums and archives in Vancouver and Victoria, trying to make sense of the terse inscriptions on and around the images. Faces in the pictures match those in photographs from archival sources of Moody and his officer Captain Henry Luard.

Moody arrived in B.C. in 1858 in command of the Columbia detachment of the Royal Engineers, sent to bring order to a chaotic colony flooded with gold prospectors. He was appointed lieutenant-governor later that year.

Many of the photographs were likely taken by Lt. Arthur Reid Lempriere, who was in charge of photography for the local detachment of the Royal Engineers, sometime after his arrival in B.C. on April 12, 1859, according to Robbins’s research.

Albumen photographs, which came into popular use in the 1850s, used a component of egg white to bind chemicals to paper, the first widely used photographic technology.

One image depicts a native man in portrait and a second image depicts Moody with another native man in the foreground. Other images include a group shot of the members of the Boundary Commission and staff employed by Moody’s wife, Mary Susanna Hawks Moody. A photo of Moody’s New Westminster home and another of the Hawks family home at Burfield Priory, Gloucestershire, strengthen the album’s connection to Moody and his wife.

A photograph of a young woman is believed to be Lulu Sweet, a 16-year-old showgirl and actress who visited Victoria to perform and who toured the Fraser River with Moody. Moody named Lulu Island for her in 1862.

A pencil sketch of a house is signed “Crease,” the surname of B.C.’s first attorney general Sir Henry Pering Pellew Crease, a lawyer, judge and influential early citizen of the colony. Crease and his family were known to have been friends and guests of the Moodys.

“My reason for selling is the historical importance of these prints in the context of the album as a whole and the insights they give into an important figure in both the history of the Royal Engineers, who were some of the earliest pioneers of photography and its importance in the history of B.C.” said Robbins. “As such album deserves to be more widely accessible, available to other researchers and properly conserved.”

The album is expected to sell for a price between $3,000 and $5,000. Lot 241 goes on sale December 4 in London.

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