October 16
Record of Ken Mansell discussion with Harley Boyles, Tuesday October 16, 2012.

Topic 1 – Charles Boyles activity in 1920’s

Question – In my article ‘From Tripod to Website’ (based on my previous interview with you in June 2010) I wrote ‘According to son Harley, Boyles commenced his VFL work around 1920-21’. Is this correct? Did your father commence his VFL work around 1920-21?

Harley – I based that on the conversations I had with my older brother Ron. I can’t be exact about it. It was somewhere in the 1920’s. Precisely? If I had to guess, I’d say early-middle twenties. He was photographing sporting groups around WW1. My niece, who lives in NSW, has researched my father’s life. Wanda would be able to contact her.

Ron was the eldest brother. He was born in 1916. Ron was interested in photography and took photos as a sideline before and after WW2. He may have sold football photos before I did (I started selling them in 1938-39) but I can’t confirm that. My three brothers all joined the forces in WW2. Two of them joined the Army and one joined the Merchant Navy. I was too young of course (born in 1931). My sister was a nurse in AMWRS during WW2.

Question – Our earliest football photos of your father’s are 1928. Your father was then 41 and had been a photographer for at least 12 years. The Electoral Roll supports the idea he was a photographer through the 1920’s. So, where are his 1920’s photos? We seem to be missing something about the 1920’s.

Harley - My father was not a collector of photos. They were just an immediate meal ticket, to keep the family in food etc. (Harley corrects Michael Riley’s note re Nicholas Street – ‘Nicholas Street was not in Carlton, but East Brunswick. It was eventually re-named Piera Street’).

Question - Maybe your father worked for someone else through the 1920’s and around 1930 started his own business.

Harley – My father always worked for himself, in the 1920’s and earlier. He couldn’t hold down a job because of his physical condition. He wasn’t mobile enough.

Question – Do you remember your father ever talking about Darge Photographic Company? Did he perhaps work for Darge at some point?

Harley – I never heard the name. There was no link. He never worked for anybody. Because of his physical condition.

Question – If your father worked as a street photographer, then where are his non-football photos?

Harley - He wouldn’t have kept his street photography. Why keep it? He just wanted to make a quick sale. He sold them all. On the other hand, he kept all his glass plates. He would have kept any football photos that were not sold.

Ken Mansell comment October 18 – If Harley is referring to the 1920’s here, and given we have no pre-1928 football photos at SLV or NSM, doesn’t this suggest Boyles did not ever have glass plate negatives (of football photos) taken prior to 1928? Later in the interview Harley told me his father was using glass plate negatives in NSW as early as the 1910’s. If he ‘kept all his glass plates’, where are these early glass plate negatives now?

Question – Some of your father’s photos appear in periodicals and as football cards at the end of the twenties. Why, in 1928, do we get your father doing all these big football jobs – Suburban Premium photos, 1928 Weekly Times, 1929 Australasian, the Football Record? Why would the Weekly Times entrust their big colour photos to an unknown, untried street photographer? Surely they would have used their regular photographer, or someone already experienced in team photos. Maybe your father did more regular work for the Weekly Times through the 1920’s. Team photos appeared regularly in the Weekly Times – did your father take those?

Harley – I don’t think he took photos for the Weekly Times. I doubt it. On the other hand, if they are on a plate (of his), then he took it. His main contact was Hughie Bull, a photographer who worked for The Age. The photographers shared their photos.

Question – There are no studio photos by your father that we know of.

Harley – There was never a studio involved in his football photography. There was a room at the back of the house that was blacked-out.

Question – Are you sure your father was at Forbes during WW1? (Michael has told me he cannot find any evidence of a major Army camp at Forbes in WW1).

Harley – Definitely. I’ve been told Forbes was the main army camp in Australia at this time.

Topic 2 – The Victorian Football Association (VFA).

Question – Why did your father stop taking photos of the VFA?

Harley – It was a minor competition with a small number of games. There was no money in it because the crowds were poor. They picked him up from the VFL. They came to him.

Question – Did you ever sell his (VFA) photos at VFA games?

Harley – I have a faint memory of selling at Coburg, and maybe Brunswick.

Topic 3 – General

Question – Did he go to the football and watch the game, or did he go just to take photos?

Harley – He went to take photos. He barracked for whatever team he was photographing! There were only two sources of football photos in Melbourne – Charles Boyles, and Allan Studios in Collingwood. Allan’s took studio photos of premiership teams on request.

Question – Did your father have a film camera for taking snapshots?

Harley – He didn’t own a camera for snapshots. (My father had only one stand-up camera. He also had a ‘while-you-wait’ camera for street photography).

Question – There are no colour photos.

Harley – He never took colour shots.

Question – Your father does not seem to have worked long hours – he took photos on Saturday’s and some training nights.

Harley – True.

Question – Did any of his photos hang in the house?

Harley – He was not a collector. The house was fairly devoid of photos.

Question – Did he have a studio where he met customers?

Harley – He only ever had two studios. He had a studio in Sydney Road (Brunswick) during one particular off-season or Christmas break. This was above Coles, and you had to go up a stairway. He also had a studio in Kyneton. This would have been about 1935 or 1936. The photo of me on the table, taken when I was four or five, was taken in Kyneton.

Question – Did he have a car?

Answer – He had a T-Model Ford. Later he had another car. He was the world’s worst driver. He picked on trams. He had a few accidents. It was hard for him to drive.

Question – Did he go on team trips at the end of the season?

Harley – Yes, he went on South Melbourne and Carlton trips. Possibly Richmond and Coburg also.

Question – When you sold photos at the games, who bought them? Families, women, older men? Or just anyone?

Harley – Anyone.

Question – Why did the players pose for the individual portrait shots? I assume they got a free copy(s). What was in it for them.

Harley - My father attended training nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays and set up his camera on the wing. The photos were ‘mass produced’ from the glass plates. The players wouldn’t normally finish up with a copy. They wouldn’t get a photo directly from us. They weren’t offered one.

Question - (not recorded)

Harley - I was selling through the fifties. The first football photos I sold were 3d. By the end of the fifties, they had gone up to a shilling (ten cents). At one particular Collingwood-Melbourne game I sold 600 photos, and I sold out by half-time. It was a Queen’s Birthday game at the MCG and the ground was full. I was selling before the game, and inside the fence. It was my biggest day ever.

Question – Did you sell both individual portraits and team photos?

Harley – (answer not recorded)

Question – Why did your father move to Ballarat during WW2 (1942-43)?

Harley – He saw an opportunity. The American marines had money to spend. He was up there for six months and lived in a tent. He had a studio in Ballarat where he printed the photos. Then he delivered them. It was an awful place, a dispossessed shop. It was on the tramline to the zoo. Before this, he had a go at the MCG for a while, and he did the army base in Dandenong. They were off-season ventures, from October on.

Question – Does his venture in Kyneton explain the gap in football photos around the 1936-37 period?

Harley – The Kyneton venture was off-season, so no, it doesn’t explain the gap. Ballarat was also off-season.

Question – In the 2010 interview you mentioned that players paid for extras. I assume you mean photos. Did you also mean the quality of the frame, a pretty title, names on the frames? The pretty headings on the VFL frames look like they were hand-drawn.

Harley – It didn’t happen. The team photos were sold to the crowd. If players wanted one, they would pay. There were no freebies. The pretty headings on the frames were done by a crowd in North Fitzroy – Patrick Brothers. A father and two sons. Badges were their big go. I took the photos down to them and they put the names on – on a cardboard backing.

End interview

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End Notes