Monday, July 11, 2011

Unknown gentleman of Greymouth, circa 1868

Here is the first of my unknown New Zealand Portraits.  I don't know anything about him, so have to rely on what there is to see in the picture.  Firstly, he would appear to be in the vicinity of forty years of age, possibly slightly younger. His middle has expanded with the approach of middle age.  He is young enough to be vain about his hair.  It is a good head of hair, well-kempt, with the stylish roll-curls over the ears that were the fashion in the 1860s.

His clothes look very warm (winter?), and clean, but lived in.  Not lately pressed. He is wearing the suit of a working man of the 1860s with the single button at the top, modelled on the working man's smock.

His expression is care-worn.  He has had to work hard to make his way in the world.  He seems to have brown eyes, or dark-coloured irises.

That exhausts what I can deduce from the image.

The photographer was A S Levinski, identified as Abraham Solomon Levinski on the Early Canterbury Photographers blog.

Newspapers on the Papers Past website yield a few clues about Levinski's career.  He appears to have been working as a hairdresser with a sideline in real estate rentals in George Street, Dunedin (opposite the Royal George Hotel) in 1864. 

By 1866, however, he had relocated to Greymouth and was again advertising his services as a hairdresser:

IF you wish-to have your hair cut properly for One Shilling go to LEVINSKI'S HAIRCUTTING SALOON, Boundary street, Two doors from  "Grey River Argus" Office, (Late of George street, Dunedin), Where you can rely on good workmanship.
Grey River Argus , 26 July 1866, Page 3.
Levinski may already have been operating a photographer's business as a sideline while he learnt how to do it adequately.  By August 1867, however, he had made the plunge, and announced his London Portrait Rooms in Boundary Road, in what appears to be his former hairdressing establishment:

PHOTOGRAPHY. — The LONDON PORTRAIT ROOMS, conducted by A. S. LEVINSKI,  Photographer, Boundary street (two doors from "Grey River Argus" office). Portraits can be taken in any weather for Carte de Visites, Brooches, Lockets, Pins, Rings, Views, etc., on the shortest notice. N.B. — All orders punctually attended to.
Grey River Argus, Volume IV, Issue 255, 31 August 1867, Page 3.
In February 1868 another Greymouth photographer, John Low, announces that he is taking over the London Portrait Rooms; but at the end of June 1868 Levinski announces that he is resuming business at the Boundary Road premises.  The Early Canterbury Photographers website says that the London Portrait Rooms were partly destroyed by fire in early 1870.

The portrait above, then, would appear to be no earlier than 1867, and no later than 1870.  If anything, I would lean towards the earlier date, as mountboards and men's jackets were changing by 1870.

If anyone can identify this man, I would be very interested to learn further details about him.

The reference in the last advertisement to "Views" is interesting - it could be that it was Levinski who took the photo of the Coal Creek Gardens, though there was another photographer operating in Greymouth at the same time, John Low, and he might equally well have been the photographer.

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