Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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Firmstone, Anne (1870? - ?)

Born
1870?
England, United Kingdom
Occupation
Photographer

Summary

Anne Firmstone was an early ethnographic photographer whose work documents life on a Melanesian mission on Norfolk Island during the 1890s. An amateur photographer, Firmstone's photographs record the impact that the arrival of missionaries had on the lives of Indigenous people on the island. She also photographed the native flora of the island.

Details

Born in England around 1870, Anne Firmstone travelled to Norfolk Island in 1894, where she stayed with her sister Mrs Browning. In 1896 she officially joined the staff of the Melanesian mission there.

During the 1890s Firmstone photographed life on the mission, with a focus on the native islanders as well as the local flora. She set up a darkroom built in the outbuildings near the Barnabas Chapel, which was also the carpentry workshop and printery.

Firmstone's photographs are significant as a record of the changes taking place in the lives of the native peoples with the arrival of the missionaries and the impact colonisation had on traditional lives.

In 1899 she married Rev. William Chamberlain O'Ferall. The couple moved to Vanuatu (Vanua Lara) in the New Hebrides, where they managed the mission school there. It is unclear whether she pursued her photographic interests in Vanuatu. After working and living there for some time they resigned and moved back to England.

Information regarding her life in England is unavailable.

Collections

Anne Firmstone's and Kate Iven's work can be found in albums of the Collenzo Collection (the Collenzo's were a family of missionaries who lived on Norfolk Island)

Events

1894 - c. 1899
Active as amateur photographer. Location: Norfolk Island.
1981
Exhibition - Anne Firmstone's work featured in Australian Women Photographers 1840-1950. Location: George Paton Gallery, Melbourne.

Anne Maxwell (with Morfia Grondas and Lucy Van)

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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