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Ivens, Kate S. (1871 - ?)

Born
1871
England
Occupation
Photographer
Alternative Names
  • Sister Kate

Summary

Kate Ivens was an early, amateur ethnographic photographer of Indigenous people. She also photographed flora and fauna.

Details

Kate Ivens was born in England in 1871. She was a deaconess as well as a trained nurse. In 1896 she travelled to Norfolk Island along with other female missionaries to join the Melanesian Mission there. Whilst on the island, she set up and managed the mission hospital.
Ivens took many photographs on the island, documenting everyday life there. Ivens's images document women doing the laundry and sewing, children playing, the surrounds of the mission settlement, the native islanders, as well as the local flora and fauna. The original motivation for Ivens to take these photographs is still uncertain. Richard Wesley suggests that '[i]f it was to demonstrate that the charges of the Melanesian Mission embraced their life on Norfolk with joy, she was singularly unsuccessful'; the life depicted in her photographs is far from joyous.

Ivens created 'makeshift studio backgrounds with sheets to emphasize and stylise her subjects' (Hall 133) and set up a darkroom in the outbuildings near the Barnabas Chapel, which was also used as the carpentry workshop and printery.

In 1908 she left the island to care for her sick father in Adelaide. Information regarding her life after leaving Norfolk Island is not available.

A retrospective exhibition of her work was organised by the Norfolk Island Museum in 1995, entitled 'In Gods Image': Miss Ivens and the Melanesian Mission, which featured 28 of her photographs.

Collections

Anne Firmstone and Kate Ivens's work can be found in albums of the Collenzo Collection, Norfolk Island Museum

Events

1896 - c. 1900
Active as amateur photographer. Location: Norfolk Island.
1981
Exhibition - Kate Ivens' work featured in Australian Women Photographers 1840-1950. Location: George Paton Gallery, Melbourne.
1995
Exhibition - Kate Ivens' work featured in 'In God's Image': Miss Ivens and the Melanesian Mission. Location: Norfolk Island Museum.

Sources used to compile this entry: Australian Women Photographers 1840-1950, George Paton Gallery, Parkville, Vic, 1981. Includes the following photographs by Kate Ivens Birds Eye View of Men's Quarters, Norfolk Island, c.1890s, Silver Gelatin Print, 8.9 x 11.75, Norfolk Island Museum Trustees, p. 30; Boys Playing (Fighting) with Broom, 1896, Silver Gelatin print, p. 30; Girls Washing Blankets, Silver Gelatin Print, 7.5 x 10, Norfolk Island Museum Trustees, p. 30; Girls Washing Blankets, c.1890s, Silver Gelatin Print, ^ X 8.25, Norfolk Island Museum Trustees, p. 30; Miss Ivens' Writing Class, c.1890s, Silver Gelatin Print, 10.25 x 15, Norfold Island Museum Trustees, p. 30.; Hall, Barbara and Mather, Jenni, Australian Women Photographers 1840 - 1960, Greenhouse Publications, Richmond, Victoria, 1986, 164 pp; New Zealand, Archives of New Zealand, Passenger Lists, 1839-1973 Kate S Ivens, 1908, 004439269; Family Search; New Zealand Archives.

Archival resources

New Zealand Archives

  • New Zealand, Archives of New Zealand, Passenger Lists, 1839-1973 Kate S Ivens, 1908, 004439269; Family Search; New Zealand Archives. Details

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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