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Ewbank’s Auctions : Papua New Guinea 1884

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Ewbank’s are to offer an album of what are thought to be the first photographs ever taken in Papua New Guinea at their 30th Anniversary sale on March 20. The 39 mounted prints chart the three-week tour by representatives of the Crown in November 1884 as they declared the British Protectorate over South Eastern New Guinea. The views include native villages, panoramas, the armoured cruiser HMS Nelson anchored offshore and a series of formal ceremonies – both onboard and onshore – as the detachment made its way from Port Moresby along the coast. As fascinating for their detail as their historical importance, the images show the British in their full ceremonial pomp, clearly in command of events, in stark contrast to the naked tribal chiefs who seem overawed by what is going on. It raises the question as to how stage managed the photographs were in promoting the strength and superiority of the British as they offered the New Guineans the hand of protection. Nowhere is this contrast more stark than in Plate 9, taken on board HMS Nelson in...

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