This was another first for Port Elizabeth. By all accounts, the first photographic studio in South Africa was established in Port Elizabeth.
The first publicly announced photographic process, was the Daguerreotype process, or daguerreotypy. It was introduced worldwide in 1839. For following nearly twenty years, it was the most commonly used photographic processes internationally.
The first photograph using this process in Port Elizabeth was on the 17th October 1846.
Main picture: The Beach at South End in 1878
Monsieur Jules Leger of Paris, a daguerreotypist, arrived in Port Elizabeth from India on October 14, 1846 aboard the schooner Hannah Codner. Three days later, he was taking “photographic likenesses (a minute’s attendance)”, in Mr. William Ring’s library. Very soon Leger exhibited a handful of settler portraits and some colonial scenes which were described in the Grahamstown Journal in November 1946 as “beautiful, wonderful, interesting.”
Leger’s associate, William Ring, then moved to Cape Town with the equipment which Leger had sold to him but he was less successful. The adoption of the wet plate process ensured that photography in South Africa expanded.
No sources are able to identify who the first persons were to be photographed. The only reasonable assumption to be made is that they were affluent. Moreover, none of these photographs is extant.
The only extant photographs that I have able to trace, which can be classified as early photographs, are the ones used in this blog.
As regards photographers, according to JJ Redgrave, one of the first and best was a Mr James Bruton who commenced business as a photographer on 11th February 1859 after being a shopkeeper. In December of that year he opened a studio in Jetty Street, finally moving to Cape Town in 1874. Port Elizabeth owes him a debt of gratitude as it is probably that many of the extant photographs of that period are Bruton’s work.
Schedule of Early Photographers in Port Elizabeth
These are the periods/dates on which these photographers operated from Port Elizabeth.
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Empire units in P.E. during the Boer War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Defences during the Boer War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Memorials to the Fallen in War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Fire Damage to the P.E. Advertiser in 1913
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Albany Road
Algoa Bay before the Settlers: Sojourn by Henry Lichtenstein in the Early 1800s
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Captain Jacob Glen Cuyler
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Growth of the Population
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Murders most Foul
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Phoenix Hotel
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Echoes of a Far off War
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Main Street in the Tram Era
Lost Artefacts of Port Elizabeth: Customs House
The Great Flood in Port Elizabeth on 1st September 1968
A Sunday Drive to Schoenmakerskop in 1922
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Horse Drawn Trams
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Trinder Square
The Sad Demise of the Boet Erasmus Stadium
Interesting Old Buildings in Central Port Elizabeth:
The Shameful Torching of Port Elizabeth’s German Club in 1915:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Cora Terrace:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Grand Hotel:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Whaling in Algoa Bay:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: White’s Road:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Slipway in Humewood:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: King’s Beach:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Russell Road:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Sand dunes, Inhabitants and Animals:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Horse Memorial:
Port Elizabeth of Yore: Target Kloof:
The Parsonage House at Number 7 Castle Hill Port Elizabeth
What happened to the Shark River in Port Elizabeth?
A Pictorial History of the Campanile in Port Elizabeth
Allister Miller: A South African Air Pioneer & his Connection with Port Elizabeth
The Three Eras of the Historic Port Elizabeth Harbour
The Historical Port Elizabeth Railway Station
Pioneer Port: The illustrated History of East London by Joseph Denfield