|For $8 you can look at this valuable Kelly photo for about 5 seconds at the Kelly Vault.
I’m not going to do what the Vault did, and play games with everyones interest in this Photo, subjecting us all to drawn out guessing competitions, exposures of tiny bits of the image, a long slow campaign of promotion and cranking up of interest and expectation, hints of controversy and uncertainty about it; I am going to tell you straight away what I think about this Forgotten Image: its Ned Kelly.
Actually, it was the cheeks that did it for me, and their relationship to his eyes. Ned Kelly’s cheek bones are quite high, plump and rounded like small fruit – plums maybe – and they’re easily seen in the photo taken before he was hanged, and in the death mask. They’re also visible in the Police Mugshot taken in 1870 at Kyneton when he was 15, and in the two taken in1874 : the Mugshot before he was released from Pentridge, and even in the ‘Boxing Ned’ photo. And if you look at the blown up bit of the “Forgotten Photo” that’s visible behind Matt Shore in the newspaper Photo that’s posted to the Vault and the NK Central FB pages, you can see them there too! Sharon has posted a comparison of the Forgotten Photo with the Boxing Ned image and again, you’ll see what I mean. Ive looked at a few other photos of Kelly sympathisers from the time, and no one has cheek bones like Neds!
However, as Matt Shore himself has said, its impossible to be 100% certain of the identity of that strapping fellow in the bush, these are all highly subjective assesments but this is my rationale for deciding its Ned Kelly. For a start, we know the activity portrayed in the image is exactly what Ned was employed doing for a short period of his life after Pentridge. The provenance of this Image seems to firmly link it to the Kellys, and theres also the fact that apparently this image was treasured by his mother. What better reason would there be for her to treasure it than that it was her son? And lastly of course, there is the physical resemblance between the person in this image and the other images we have of Ned Kelly.
There are however some really important questions that still need to be answered about this image, and in making my own pronouncement I am assuming these questions have all been answered in a satisfactory way. Thus far however, the Public have been kept in the dark about these answers, and on Facebook attempts to get them recently by myself and another person were met firstly with responses that were evasive and ambiguous, and then with direct attacks on our identity. Leigh Olver clearly is more deeply involved and is privy to much more than he lets on, insists that these are all questions for the Vault to answer but the Vault has remained silent. Never-the-less these are serious questions and they require answers.
The first relates to the fact that a woman called Elsie Pettifer claimed that the man in question was her father. Elsie Pettifer was a grand-daughter of Neds mother Ellen, and was at one time custodian of this and other Kelly memorabilia, but she died in 2000. On Facebook last week Kelly descendant Leigh Olver claimed Elsie was wrong when she claimed this was a photo of her father and not of Ned, but when asked how he could so confidently assert that a woman couldn’t recognize her own father, he declined to elaborate. The interesting thing is that in 2002 when this same photo was put up for Auction by Christies, Elsie Pettifers opinion was accepted by Ian Jones and others, and for that very reason the photo was withdrawn from the Auction. In 2002 nobody thought this was a photo of Ned. It then became the ‘forgotten photo’. So the question that really needs answering is what changed between 2002, when Elsies view was accepted, and 2016 when Elsies view was dumped? All kinds of innocent and not so innocent explanations are possible – was it realized that Elsies eyesight was so poor, or her aged mind and memory so infirm her opinion could not be relied on? Was she trying to wrest back control of an image that she thought could be worth a lot of money if it was known to be Ned, by falsely saying it was her father? Equally, could modern day Kellys have decided that because if it was Ned the image could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, they would discredit Elsies view and promote one that would greatly benefit whoever has control of it in 2016?
You see, there is definitely a very real power struggle going on between various Kelly factions at the moment. Last year, when Joanne Griffiths started her Ned Kelly Center Facebook Page to promote her plans to create a unified Kelly family organization, almost immediately the almost identically named, but anonymously backed Ned Kelly Central sprang up. It soon broadcast declarations from Leigh Olver that he and a different group of Kelly descendants didn’t endorse or support Joannes group, and at various times over the last year, he has made various critical and unsupportive comments in relation to activities the NKCenter has been engaged in.
Enter the Ned Kelly Vault: According to the Vaults own publicity, one of the Kelly factions approached the Vault with an offer about the ‘forgotten image’ . Given there appear to be only two factions, it was either someone from Joanne’s group, or someone from Leigh Olvers group, but not a single mention has been made of this Image on the NK Centre FB page. Additionally, a report from the Age newspaper has surfaced from 2002, quoting Leigh Olver making a comment about these very images at the time they went to Auction,so it stands to reason that Leigh Olver and his faction is behind this Kelly Image Project. They wanted the image to be made public but they made very strict and specific demands of the Vault if they were to have access to this image : specifically, the identity of the Kelly faction involved was to be kept secret, no-body was permitted to copy it, it was not to be made available on the Internet or anywhere else, and the Public could only have access to the image at the Vault. Poor Matt Shore had no real choice – the diehard Kelly collector and enthusiast would probably have cut his arm off to get it if they had asked him to – this was the Kelly find of the Century, he could barely conceal his enormous excitement and delight at the chance to see something he was told had never been made Public before, a photo of Ned Kelly that would be only the second that wasn’t a Police mugshot. Not only that, the photo was in great condition and so different to all the others, a photo of a happy relaxed natural looking Ned out in the bush, at work making an honest living. No question: a sensational find.
I’m guessing of course, but I would imagine that Matt Shore isn’t all that pleased with the strait-jacket the Kellys have forced him to wear. I imagine that what Matt Shore would have wanted to do is cover half a wall with a huge blown up version of this great Photo, be very open and informative about the exact provenance of it, tell a fascinating story of its history from 1874 to 2002 when it was withdrawn from Auction to 2016 when it was ‘unforgotten’, why Elsie Pettifer got it wrong,what the Professor did, what its market value might be, and make it widely available so everyone can share his delight and fascination. When I saw that newspaper article where a bit of the Photo was visible in the background, massively enlarged, I was encouraged.
But readers, let me warn you, if you go to Beechworth expecting something magnificent like that, you’re in for a massive shock and deep disappointment. I cannot imagine for a second that what the Kellys have forced Matt Shore to do with this image pleases him in the least. In fact I think it might be an embarrassment to him, because , like the imprisonment of a magnificent wild animal in a tiny cage, this image of Ned is imprisoned in a bizarre little box with a tiny viewing window at the top. And when you look in its not even the actual photo itself that you see, or the high resolution image they have made of it but a sort of perpetually scrolling video that begins with a washed out version of the original that fades out and is replaced by the new one, and if I remember rightly a close up of the face which is then superimposed by the death mask and other Ned images one by one for a few seconds and then it starts all over again. Meanwhile, you’re stooped over this box and kids behind you are noisily jostling for their turn to be next, as you watch it a second time in disbelief at what you just saw, desperate to try to fix the image in your minds eye before its replaced with the death mask and the beard obscures the face….I cannot begin to describe how disappointed I was, even somewhat annoyed that after all these months of hype and promotion of this ‘find of the Century’, all I get to see is a few seconds of video in a stupid little box:
|The stupid little box at the Kelly Vault that hides the ‘Kelly find of the Century’
I don’t really blame the Vault, or Matt Shore for this farce, I blame the Kellys, and if Leigh Olver has something to do with all of this he needs to own up to it and give the public an explanation of just what the hell they think they’re playing at. They’re happy to have the State Government spend a million bucks on restoring a Kelly house, but the Public have to pay up if they want to see the Kelly find of the Century!
I wish Matt Shore could have told them in March where to stick their Photo if the only way the Public could get to see it was to pay to do so and in conformity with their ridiculous demands for secrecy and security. Maybe now he is wishing he had.
The only possible reason that I can think of for all these restrictions around the Public showing of this image, is that its about money, not so much for the Vaults coffers but for the Kellys. By having the Vaults experts offer an opinion that undercuts Elsies, and having the Public interest aroused and a belief generated that it is indeed Ned in that photograph, you can be sure the next time it goes to Auction it wont be passed in. Remember the photo of that dodgy trio said to include Ned that sold for $16,000 earlier this year? Matt Shore was asked what the value of this Photo would be in an ABC interview you can listen to by following this link ;he declines to provide a number, but you can sort of hear him shaking his head in wonder when he says it could be worth “anything”. He’s right!
I wrote elsewhere that I and many others felt we had been ‘jerked around’ by the Vault in its manipulation of Public interest in this Photo, but now I think the Vault has been jerked around too. I think the Vault has been caught up in the Kelly wars, and has compromised itself in the way it has given in to their absurd demands and created this sad and miserable little display that completely fails to do justice to the image and its significance for not just Kelly history but Australian history as well. An opportunity for something magnificent has been missed.
Given that I am persona non grata at the Vaults FB page and at NKCentral, where Leigh Olver hangs out, I somehow think my questions will go unanswered but these are the questions the Kellys and the Vault should be answering :
- Why are you so sure Elsie was wrong?
- Why do the experts no longer accept the view of the experts in 2002 who said the clothes these men were wearing belonged to well after 1874?
- How exactly did Professor Spring the photographic forensic expert analyse the Photo, and what were the facts that led him to conclude it was very likely to be Ned Kelly?
- Did the Kellys not tell Matt Shore that the photo HAD been seen before, and that it had been published in a Christies Auction Catalogue of 2002? ( The initial Vault publicity suggested this was a photo that had never been seen before)
- Ian Jones was reported to have been at the unveiling of this Photo at the Vault on November 12th. Has he changed his view of who is in the photo, and if so, does Matt Shore know what it was that led Ian Jones to change his mind?
- What happened to the analysis of the writing on the back of the Photo?
- Where is the actual Photo now? Hidden in the Vault or back in the hands of the Kellys?
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