The still-life and the photographs of Rev William Lawes
Jude Philp (University of Sydney)
Paper short abstract:
William Lawes was the first photographer to live in the pre-colonial villages of Port Moresby, PNG. His images record the settlement, local awareness of its impact and daily life. I examine his still-lifes, to reflect upon the documentary and missionary themes that dominate his photographic work.
Paper long abstract:
Rev. William Lawes of the London Missionary Society lived at Anapata from 1874. As the first photographer of the growing settlement based in so-called 'unknown New Guinea', his images were sought after by emerging anthropologists, collectors, potential colonisers and missionary societies. His photographs were largely sold through a Sydney-based studio and record the settlement, local awareness of its impact and daily life along the coastal villages. This paper addresses one group of his photographic work, the still-lifes that depict groups of objects arranged on cloth. Neither of great quality nor photographic style these images, I argue, are largely advertisements for goods that Lawes sought to sell to the growing anthropological and popular market in ethnographic arts.
Elements toward a theory of mission photography