South African Photography

Figure 1.--This CDV is one of the earliest we have archived so far from South Africam in this case Natal, a Dutch sellement seied by the Briish (1843), after which the Dutch (Boers) treked into the interior. These two boys wearing cut-away jacket, vested knee pants suits. The boys are 7-9 years old. They are named on the back, but but the only name we can make out is Percy. Click on the image if you think tht you can deciher the writing. The studio is J.A. Murray in Natal.

Photography was invented in Europe. The first commercial process was the Dahguerreotype (1839). The process quickly spread in Europe and America. It took a little longer to reach Africa, but not much. Photography first reached Durban (1846). Next was French Daguerrotypist Jules Légar at Algoa Bay, a settlement in the Eastern Cape. It is located along in the east coast, 425 miles east of the Cape of Good Hope. He arrived on the schooner Hannah Codner. He took and exhibited the first settler portraits and colonial scenes (1846). An associate, William Ring, struck out on his own in Cape Town, but ws not very successful. Others were soon operating studios in Cape Town: Carel Sparmann, William Waller, and John Paul (1851). And technological advances soon followed, especially the wet plate. S.B Bernard and F.A.Y. York won public commissions (breakwater and prison at waterfront docks) and had imprssive clientelles (1850s). Most of the early photographs were portraits of the settlers. One of thei clients was Govenor Sir George Grey who organized the destruction of the Xhosa chiefdoms after the cattle killing in the Eastern Cape (1856-57). [Hayes, p.139.] Photographs of the African peoples mostly began with anthropologists and missionaries who were interested in the native populations. These and collections of other European colonial photographers, often had racial overtomes, designed or unintenionlly conveyin imagery designed to legitimize colonialism. The first such images were of the native peoples (the Khoi khoi and San) that the Duch and Britsish first encountered. The first large number of images came with the development of the albumen process and the CDV (1860s). And we begin to see large numbers of image first time, mosty of the European settlers.


Hayes, Patricia. "Power, Secrecy, Proximity: A Short History of South African Photography," Kronos University of Western Cape (November 2007), pp. 139-162).


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Created: 2:39 AM 11/21/2016
Last updated: 2:39 AM 11/21/2016