Richmond, Victoria, T.W. McAlpine, [1880s].
An original albumen paper carte de visite (image size 90 × 57 mm), mounted on card (104 × 63 mm) with the photographer's details printed at the foot of the recto.
Apart from a tiny surface chip near one eyebrow, the photograph and mount are in excellent condition.
Some details catch the eye immediately - the cloth cap, the high lace-up boots, the striped knee-length socks - but they don't demand answers. However, one that does is the caption 'Why did my master sell me?' written in the negative on the fur rug covering the chair on which the subject is seated. A broadsheet ballad in the collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum, dated 1845-49, commences thus: 'Oh, I have lost my Dinah, | Away down Carolina, | O, tell me where to find her, | Alas! she's gone away. | ... | O why did my master sell me, | Why did my master sell me, | Why did my master sell me | Upon my wedding day!'. Closer study of the image indicates the young man is polishing a boot, and what at first might appear to be random streaks of black boot polish on his face, in this context, we presume to be an example of blackface.