In the State Library of Victoria we have an amazing photographic collection of ship photo thanks to Allan Green.
He was born in Daylesford, in the Central Victorian goldfields on Dec. 23, 1878. His father was a miner. There is a photograph of a sister, Florence, and there were an unknown number of brothers.
Our knowledge of this man’s life – if not the published indications of a gentle and kindly soul – are at best fragmentary. We do know that as a young man Allan Green and his brothers set out for the goldfields of Western Australia, in the roaring days of Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, but – not striking it rich – eventually opened a grocery store in the remote mining settlement of Day Dawn well north of Perth, inland from Geraldton [it is now a ghost town]. Allan Green was never a miner: he had originally worked as helping hand to a blacksmith, and after the store was opened, finding himself left for long periods alone, he started a corresponmdence course in Fine Art, the basis of his water colour painting that followed.
Clearly Green was a man of finer instincts than his environment of remote boom and bust mine towns suggest. A photograph of wheat wagon out in WA also suggests he was already working with a camera. Information about his introduction to photography, however, is completely lacking, but everything about the stunning clarity of Green’s plate glass images, and his care in composition, compellingly suggests that he also had some formal training in this art.
He is seen in the photo here as a young man, in a typical early 20th Century Edwardian portrait, perhaps taken around the time of his marriage to Elizabeth May Cowie, a beauty of Scottish heritage, whom he married at the Town Hall in South Melbourne.
Returning to Victoria in the early years of the 20th Century Green opened a photo studio on Williamstown’s Front Esplanade, which he lived above. While Green no doubt did commercial portrait photography, his own fascination and focus seems to have been was almost entirely maritime, and he clearly spent an enormous amount of time on it.
Of the 10,000 or so images Green donated to the State Library of Victoria in 1940 [the number, nominally 8025, is much understated as a result of by multiple images under single subject listings], there are just a few family portraits and few general scenes. The rest is entirely of ships, one of the great collections of its kind.
His first love had been sailing ships, billowing under full sheets out at sea, and there are thousands of such images in the SLV’s Green Collection, augmented by his highly regarded colour paintings from the 19th-early 20th Century’s end of sail era, many of them published in the Melbourne ‘Punch,’ and later the maritime ‘Port Phillip Quarterly.’
The photograph collection largely consists of Green’s own work, but he also gathered in photos of ships from all around the world, and he sold reproductions of these these from his Front Terrace studios. In truth, the business failed to flourish, and the 1930s found Green working as a newsagent in Melbourne’s tough inner suburb of Richmond, a business that eventually failed during the Depression.
Green’s grandson, Mr David Thiessen of Oak Park, Victoria, who passed on this information, tells us that while his grandfather – artist at heart – was never a successful businessman, nor was he much concerned with money. Apart from his time in Western Australia, Green’s only trips outside the State of Victoria were two trips to Sydney, at least one of them accompanied by his grandson. Although only a boy, David Thiessen recalls him photographing warships at Garden Island during this visit.
In a tribute published after his death on April 25, 1954, the Port Phillip Quarterly, the author Captain Hartley Watson said that along with sailing ships Green had an early interest in the ships of the Royal Navy’s Australia Station squadron, which preceded the formation of the RAN. This interest continued throughout his life, and just as Sydney’s Sam Hood [1872-1956] is said to have photographed every ship that came into Sydney Harbour over a 60 year period, so too Allan Green captured just about every ship, and certainly all the warships of all nations, that ever appeared in Port Phillip Bay.
Australia has had other great maritime photographers: Searcy in South Australia, Izzy Orloff [1891-1983] and Saxon Fogarty in Fremantle, Albert Perrier [1870-1963] in Sydney, and others [not forgetting the newspaper photographers], but in terms of preserved work and significance, Sam Hood and Allan Green seem to stand head and shoulders above the rest. Their styles were very different: Hood, topical, with human interest settings and Sydney scenery; Green, ignoring almost everything but meticulously lucid detail of the ships – the only outside influence to intrude on Green’s images was Melbourne’s notorious weather.
The above story is from https://www.flickr.com/photos/41311545@N05/7691401602
The State Library of Victoria collection available at http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do;jsessionid=BF9685547D67BC59BB7292EC3EE8B1FF?fn=search&vl(freeText0)=Green%2c+Allan+C&tab=default_tab&mode=Basic&scp.scps=scope%3a(ROSETTA_OAI)%2cscope%3a(SLV_VOYAGER)%2cscope%3a(SLV_DIGITOOL)%2cscope%3a(SLVPRIMO)&vid=MAIN&ct=suggestedSearch&vl(34473804UI1)=all_items&vl(1UIStartWith0)=exact&vl(10247183UI0)=creator
Allan C Green 1878-1954, photographer.