Information About the The Alfred & Roy Dufty Maritime Heritage Collection

The Dufty Collection

(Research notes courtesy of Mr Graeme K. Andrews O.A.M.)

The Dufty Collection consists of approximately 2,200 photographs and photographed artworks relating to Australian shipping of the period 1870-1930.

Alfred William Buchanan Dufty (1858-1924)

Alfred William Buchanan Dufty was born at Kingston upon Thames, England, to Francis Herbert and Martha (nee Stow) Dufty on March 4th 1858. Francis was an early photographer in Bristol. In 1865, the two eldest Dufty sons, Frank and Edward migrated to Australia. Together they travelled the Victorian goldfields with a horse-drawn portable studio.

Father, Francis and younger son Alfred arrived in Melbourne aboard SS Great Britain in September 1868, while mother Martha and son Walter arrived in April 1871. In 1871 Frank opened a studio in Fiji, where he was joined by Alfred in 1872. The brothers were active in the social life of the expatriate community in Fiji and produced an important body of photographic work recording the local people and times. The brothers were very active in moving around between Australia and various Pacific Islands with Alfred learning how to speak fluent French in Noumea. It was a talent that was to prove very useful.

By 1886 Alfred, married to Susan Burt and with a young family, was finding that there were too many photographers by the name of Dufty in the Fiji area so he came back to Australia. Alfred took on several jobs including labouring but he found his niche helping the Newcastle marine Artist and photographer, Temple West. This led him to contacts with other marine painters whose work he was later to market.

Although many of Dufty's photographs of shipping around Sydney's Port Jackson were taken before 1900, he set up his business full-time in 1906 when he opened his own Studio of Marine Photography at 28 Erskine Street, Sydney. It was a well-chosen site and many of the sailors from the ships in Darling Harbour used the electric tram service from Erskine Street, while others from Pyrmont were brought to Erskine Street by one of the many small ferries that served the area.

Alfred Dufty's shop at 32 Erskine Street, Sydney.

Soon after setting up his sign Alfred Dufty was able to rent another shop nearby at 32 Erskine Street. Here he could live with his family and run his business.

Example of typical Dufty hand-coloured postcard, the Nymboida built 1872.

At this time there was a considerable business opportunity to provide photographic prints to the seamen and officers of visiting ships. A similar opportunity came in providing often stylised images of ships as marine art. These were often ordered by shipowners and ship's masters. The paintings were copied onto glass plate negatives from which prints and later, postcards, many of which were hand-tinted, were produced.

Dufty had arrangements with a number of maritime artists including Borstal, Edgar, Gregory, Barratt, Allcot, Spencer, Castle, Aris and others. Such prints usually had the trademark small lifebuoy insignia with Dufty's name and with the signature of the artist.

Example of Aris painting. The Canberra built 1913, painted 1914.

Son Harold worked with Alfred Dufty for some time but fourth son Roydon (born 1891) became a talented marine photographer who also compiled a major collection of images of New South Wales' northern tablelands which may be seen in the University of New England.

It does not seem that the Dufty family ever operated their own boat as a photographic platform. Being close to the ferry wharf the Duftys probably used the ferries and their contacts with harbour working companies to place themselves in the best position to get the photograph.

Two examples of typical Dufty souvenirs.

Looking at the Dufty images over about 30 years it is possible to trace some of the expansion of the port and to watch the changing face of local and international shipping. The family was early into the souvenir trade for passenger ships and often raced home to develop the image and then place it inside small wooden lifebuoys which were then introduced into that particular ship by the ship's purser, no doubt for a suitable consideration. Many of these small items must be tucked away in sock drawers of Australians and there are many thousands of Dufty postcards in collections all over Australia and beyond.

Roydon Dufty (1891-1973)

Roydon Dufty died in 1973, and his daughter Judith made suitable arrangements for the protection of the more than 2,000 glass plate negatives. A significant proportion of the collection now resides at Gosford City Library, on the NSW Central Coast.

Gosford City Library is interested in documenting further information and examples of Alfred Dufty's work. If you can help, please contact the Local Studies Librarian at or phone 4325-8118 during office hours.

Contact the Image Library if you require further information.

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