Prisoners in New Caledonia, c. 1880
An albumen print showing five prisoners lined up under the gaze of a guard in the courtyard of a prison in New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific, then a French dependency, now an overseas territory of France. A pencilled inscription in the lower margin reads: ‘Interior Prison, New Caledonia.’
France took formal possession of New Caledonia in 1853. In 1864 it became a penal colony and from then until the end of transportation in 1897 about 22,000 criminals and political prisoners were sent to New Caledonia. The last prison closed in 1923.
The reverse of the album page carries a similarly sized photographed showing a much wider view of another compound, titled ‘Cavalry Barracks, Noumea, N.C.’ in the lower margin (scan available on request).
Photographer unidentified, but possibly by Allan Hughan (1834-1883), who established a studio in Noumea in 1871.
Condition: the print is in excellent condition, with very good tonal range. The album page has warped very slightly in its upper and lower margins and presents a small amount of light foxing.
Dimensions: the print measures 7” by 9” (17.9 cm by 23 cm); the album page on which it is mounted measures 9.4” by 11.4” (23.8 cm by 29.3 cm).