The Find of the Century?The Kelly world is all abuzz about the alleged new Ned Kelly photo that has emerged from the shadows. Matt Shore of Beechworth's Ned Kelly Vault has whipped everyone into a frenzy as he has been giving tantalizing teasers about it. A precious few people have been allowed sneak peeks at it, though (but, not me). There have been news articles and radio interviews about this find. In one of those interviews it was said that the photo was taken in "an outside bush setting and has two men posed in period working attire." Captain Jack Hoyle said to me a while back that it sounded suspiciously like the alleged Ned and Dan cutting wood photo in the 2002 Christie's auction catalog (that had the Gentleman Ned photo on the cover, a photo that was proven to not be Ned after all).
Blurb from the catalog for the photo we are discussing -
"Ned and Dan Kelly Cutting Sleepers, mounted sepia print, 110x150 mm.
A spidery blue ink inscription on the back is partly decipherable. It appears to refer to 'Ned & Dan'. Certainly, some descendents believe that the two men in the photo are Dan Kelly, at left, and Ned. However, the photo itself and the men's clothing suggest a date in the 1890s, more than 10 years after the brothers' deaths. The moustached man at the left is too old to be Dan Kelly (he died at 19) though the second man, with a half-grown beard, strongly resembles Ned Kelly. It is true that while Ned Kelly was growing his beard after release from prison in February 1874, he worked at a sawmill. But these two axemen do not look like part of a commercial operation, and, as already noted, they wear bush clothing that belongs to the 1890s rather than the 1870s.
In 1995, Ned Kelly's niece, Elsie Pettifer, told Ian Jones that she believed the two men to be her father, Walter Knight, and his brother-in-law, Jack Kelly/King. Jones accepts this identification, though Kelly pictorial expert Keith McMenomy is still tempted to believe that the right hand figure is Ned Kelly. The photograph has never been published. The mount is badly stained and torn but the image is completely undamaged."
At first I thought, hmm, maybe what the Vault has is a variation on that photo? Or a completely different one? Could it be the same one? If the same one, why didn't any of the folks who got the early bird views tell them (that is if they even knew)? I know would have if I would have been part of that whole circle. If it is the same one, how could someone say like Matt Shore did in an interview that "Just a few months ago nobody knew about the image." He also said "It is quite incredible that such a photo could be held by the family for 130 years and the public not know about it." He called it the "find of the century" and elaborated on about how the Kelly family owner did not want it shown online and only wanted it in a museum setting, etc. Then John Suta was interviewed after seeing the elusive photo and said that Ned had a paunch in it, and there is a sort of paunch on the guy they think is Ned. He also spoke about woodlots setting and two men, etc. Matt even mentioned the billy can and coat on the stump in the background. I kept wondering, could it be the same photo even though they keep saying no one has seen it save for the family and those close to the Vault management?
Note that I did not want to make these photos too big because they would pixelate way too much.