Photographers Index

Crombie, John Nicol, 1827-1878, photographer

Gender: Male
Active Dates: 1827 - 1878
Active Area: Oceania (continent)
New Zealand (nation)
Auckland (inhabited place)
Auckland (region)
North Island (island)
Devonport (inhabited place)
Likenesses: None found.
Photographs: See list of photographs
Publications: None found.
Related Entries: None found.
John Nicol Crombie was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 11 August 1827 and emigrated to Australia at the height of the gold-rush in 1852, initially taking a job with the American photographic firm of Meade Brothers. In 1855 he moved to Auckland, New Zealand, and opened a studio in Shortland Street. His business acumen and advertising succeeded: Crombie claimed that during his first 15 months in Auckland he took over 1,000 portraits. From September 1856 to September 1858 he toured the 'Southern Provinces' and in 1859, after his return to Auckland, moved his studio to Queen Street saying that it was now equal to any in Europe. In May 1862, Crombie returned to Europe and took the opportunity to acquaint himself with the latest developments in photography. He also gave a lecture to the Glasgow Photographic Association, discussing photography in New Zealand and making the claim that only a handful of photographers had been there before him. In 1864, prior to his return to New Zealand, Crombie married Harriet Berry.

Crombie was one of the first photographers in Auckland to record outdoor scenes and won a medal for one such photograph at the International Exhibition in London in 1862. He made a point of covering events that had caught the public's imagination and his photographs now constitute a valuable photographic record of Auckland between 1855 and 1869. By the mid 1860s his carte-de-visite trade was flourishing making him a wealthy man. In 1872 Crombie decided to leave New Zealand for good and return to England. He sold his photographic equipment and, prior to his departure, he and his wife threw a farewell ball in the Auckland town hall. In 1878, on the return journey from England to Auckland to look into some of his investment interests, Crombie died in Melbourne on 15 December.

During his 18 years in New Zealand, Crombie did much to elevate the art of photography to that of a respected professional (Oliver 1990, pp.95-96).
Sources: Oliver, W.H. ed. (1990), 'The dictionary of New Zealand biography, volume 1, 1769-1869', Wellington: Allen and Unwin New Zealand Limited and the Department of Internal Affairs.

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