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Publication: Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle: The Global Career of Showman Daguerreotypist J. W. Newland

James William Newland’s (1810–1857) career as a showman daguerreotypist began in the United States but expanded into Central and South America, across the Pacific to New Zealand and colonial Australia and onto India. Newland used the latest developments in photography, theatre and spectacle to create powerful new visual experiences for audiences in each of these volatile colonial societies.

This book assesses his surviving, vivid portraits against other visual ephemera and archival records of his time. Newland’s magic lantern and theatre shows are imaginatively reconstructed from textual sources and analysed, with his short, rich career casting a new light on the complex worlds of the mid-nineteenth century. It provides a revealing case study of someone brokering new experiences with optical technologies for varied audiences at the forefront of the age of modern vision.

This book will be of interest to scholars in art and visual culture, photography, the history of photography and Victorian history.

Thanks to all our colleagues who assisted in the research and publication of this book, out now. Feedback welcome.


  1. The Americas: Competing photographic practices across shifting political borders 
  2. The Pacific: Photographing Indigenous royalty amid British and French imperial tensions 
  3. Australia: Daguerrean galleries, dissolving views and visual spectacle 
  4. India: The heart of empire 
  5. Britain and India: Brokering new experiences and spaces for photography and performance 


Author Biographies

Elisa deCourcy is a specialist in early photography and a Research Fellow in the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at the Australian National University.

Martyn Jolly is Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Art and Design at the Australian National University and was Lead Chief Investigator on the Australian Research Council Project 'Heritage in the Limelight: The Magic Lantern in Australia and the World'.


Empire, Early Photography and Spectacle: The Global Career of Showman Daguerreotypist J.W. Newland
Elisa deCourcy and Martyn Jolly
Routledge History of Photography
175 pages, indexed, with 56 illustrations and 8 colour plates, including 22 daguerreotypes in colour and monochrome drawn from public and private collections around the world.

Reviews and Purchase:


J.W. Newland, woman with nodding head doll, 1849-c.1857, Calcutta, cased, uncoloured, sixth-plate daguerreotype, 8 x 7 cms (approx). Courtesy the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford. 1965.430.

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