Boyles photos are not always labelled. But there are many clues to help identify a Boyles photo. A few such methods are outlined below.
Table of contents
TimeframeBoyles's first known football photos are from the period around 1928. For the first ten years, through the 1930's, his photos cover a broad range of clubs - workplace teams, the VFA, the VFL, even boys' teams. There are occasional photos of individual players, mainly VFL players.
By 1940 Boyles started to limit his work to the VFL, plus school and amateur teams occasionally. For some reason, perhaps profitability, he took no VFA photos after World War Two.
After the War, he took more individual player photos, and many photos of VFL seconds teams. Clubs such as Carlton, Collingwood and South Melbourne dominate the collection, and teams like Geelong (presumably difficult to travel to) and Melbourne (where a different photographer was used) are less prolific.
Stamps and identificationIf one is lucky, there may be a stamp or some writing on the image to identify it as a Boyles photo.
Stamps can also assist in dating a Boyles photo, as his earlier photos are stamped with "40 Nicholas Street", and his later photos are stamped with the "8 Inverness Street" address.
One photo, though, does have an odd identification in Boyles's handwriting.
HandwritingMany Boyles photos, especially earlier images, have the team name and date written on the bottom of the image, usually in the middle of the bottom of the photo. The writing is a distinctive thick script, written in capitals. A few examples are given below.
One should look for the following guides:
- The number 9 is distinctive. The number can look like a zero with a trailing angled line attached to it.
- The letter R is written as a P with a line added to it that is weaker than the main part of the character.
- The letter G has a straight line on top of the 'C', from inside the 'C' to outside the 'C'.
- Writing on the photo is not uniform. The letter heights can vary, and the line of characters can wobble across the page, with a slight rise or drop in the line.
FramesFrom the examples available we can identify some trends.
I assume that, like many photographers, Boyles offered a range of options and prices to his clients. From the examples available, it is also clear that the frames improved over his career.
In the early 1930's, Boyles generally used a brown cardboard frame for his team photos.
(I am at a disadvantage here as I am writing this section using photos of photos, and scans, rather than original photos.)
A number of Boyles photos appear in a small plastic frame. The central image is raised from the edges of the frame, and the image appears to be unmovable, pasted behind the plastic covering. These images are usually around five inches wide (excluding the frame).
The earliest use of this type of frame dates from the Second World War. The RAAF Museum contains a photo of two soldiers in such a frame, and it may be that Boyles introduced these durable frames at the time when he was selling photos to soldiers - who would have valued a more durable image to carry around.
The earlier versions of these photos may have been labelled using a typewriter. Higher quality labels were used on later versions.
Labelled FootballsA number of Boyles photos show minor teams with the team details written on a football being held by a member of the team. His VFA/VFL teams do not appear with labelled footballs. The evidence suggests writing on a football was usually only done for less important/junior teams.
LocationVirtually all Boyles photos were taken in the open air, and there is a distinct lack of studio photos.
Most Boyles photos were taken at football grounds. Virtually all his VFL/VFA team photos were taken at the start of the game as the teams ran onto the field. In virtually all cases the photo was taken close to the boundary line, with the main grandstand in the background. Photos taken on the field facing the other direction (with an open sky), or indoors in the clubroom celebrating a victory, are rare.
There is more variation with the minor and junior teams that Boyles captured. These teams were more likely to have been photographed at the side of (or behind) a grandstand. A number of photos of minor teams were taken in what appear to be local parks or gardens. But there are no examples of photos taken indoors. Nor do we ever see a team on the field if it is not in front of a grandstand.
It would certainly have been easier for the team, if the photographer had gone to the team, rather than the team having to go to the photographer.
The difference in Boyles's treatment of senior teams and minor teams may demonstrate that Boyles had to fit in with the needs of the senior teams, and that he was prepared to do so to fulfill an important photographic opportunity. He possibly had more control with the minor teams. Another reason why minor teams are rarely shown in front of the local grandstand might be because one did not exist, or if it did, was not deemed attractive enough.
Virtually all Boyles photos of individual players are taken on the ground rather than in the training rooms. Harley Boyles explains that his father would set up on the wing on a training night and call players over to have their photo taken. This procedure was convenient, as the players would not have to leave the ground, and it would take only moments from their training to pose for the photo. In the modern corporate word, it is inconceivable that a private photographer would be able to do this.
The training session is never seen in the photos, and the players always appear somewhat stiff and withdrawn. This is probably in contrast to the reality of the moment. Most likely there were many players on the field, and lots of action and noise.
The photos that Boyles took of football officials do not appear to have been taken on the ground. They are taken against walls, and sometimes have a backing, such as a sheet, thrown up behind them. None of them appear to have been taken indoors however.
Team PhotosBoyles usually photographed his football teams on match day. The groups shown in his team photos therefore represent the players chosen for the day rather than the team's entire player list. Photos of the larger squads are quite rare in the collection.
VFL players in their team photos usually appear rather casual - they smile, talk and do not always face the camera. The players in lower grade teams seem to have taken more advantage of the opportunity and typically watch the camera.
Boyles had a definite preference for three rows of players in his team photos, usually with three or more players in the front row.
In the 1920's and 1930's it was common for players in team photos to be shown lined up in a single row across the photo with their heads turned to camera. Boyles does not appear to have experimented with this style.
Other photographic studios at the time, such as Allans in Collingwood, took many football team photos, but most of these were taken at the studio rather than at the ground. A studio photo of a team is unlikely to be a Boyles photo.
Individual PhotosThe players shown in Boyles photos of individuals often have a stiff, unspontaneous look as they stand and face the camera. Boyles's few action shots are faked, and similarly stiff. There are certainly no caught-in-the-moment snapshots of individual players, where they might reveal their emotions.
Even though 35mm cameras were popular by the fifties (especially for photographers), there are no examples in the Boyles collections of action shots taken in the course of an actual match. Nor are there examples of photos taken in the club rooms, such as of a player proudly holding a trophy after a match. Boyles does not appear to have dabbled in newspaper-style photography to any real degree. Out of 1500+ photos, there are less than half a dozen action shots.
A good illustration of Boyles's style are the images published in the 1948_49 Football Souvenir Magazine. A number of images from the 1948 series have been identified as Boyles photos, but none have been identified from the 1949 series as Boyles. There is a contrast in style between the two series, and it is unlikely that any of the 1949 series are by Boyles.
Boyles style portraits from 1948 Football Souvenir Magazine series
Very un-Boyles style portraits from 1949 Football Souvenir Magazine series
ScopeBoyles's scope was very narrow. This was reflective of someone there to do a job, rather than a modern happy snapper.
There is an obvious affinity to football. Football dominates his work. The limited scope was surprising when we first thought about it, but it has been quite helpful as it very clearly assists in helping identify a Boyles photo.
- Very few action shots. No games in progress, nor coaches or trainers at work.
- No photos of crowds enjoying the game; no photos of umpires, players or officials relaxed and chatting.
- Rarely a photo of someone with a trophy or celebrating a victory.
- There are individual shots and team shots, but virtually no small group shots or family shots (for example brothers on the same team, or father and sons).
- Few other sports - no soccer, cycling, tennis, or athletics, although there are a few cricket teams and basketball teams (albeit teams involving footballers).
- Few experimental photos - for example photos taken from different angles. The photos Boyles took over his thirty year career are very consistent.
- No general photos of Melbourne and suburbs. Though there are photos of soldiers, there are no shots of wartime Melbourne, general street scenes, the Royal visits, the 1956 Olympics etc.
- There are virtually no studio portraits. The Boyles portrait photos that exist are taken in temporary locations, against a wall, or with a blanket or sheet thrown up for the background.
- There are no wedding photos or studio family photos of the sort that you would associate with a professional photographer.
- No colour - not one colour football photo.
Boyles photos are very consistent in style, and therefore in many ways quite distinctive. Because of this, there are many clues available to assist in identification.