New York: Chas. Eisenmann Photographer, c. 1880. First printing. Ephemera. A striking head and shoulder portrait of a Maori in New York wearing a Korowai or tag coat, a white feather in his hair and lower chin Ta Moko or tattoo. It appears that this image is not recorded at the National Library of New Zealand.
Charles Eisenmann was born in Germany and migrated to New York City around 1870 and opened his first photography studio six years’ later. He began specializing in theatrical and show business portraits and became acquainted with legendary showman and circus impresario P. T. Barnum, whose human oddities or 'freaks' were a popular exhibit at his American Museum. The two came to an agreement where Mr. Eisenmann would photograph the unique performers so cards could handed out as promotion to the public.
Mr. Eisenmann's images are noted for particularly being sharp, clear, and well-posed. (adapted from Historiccamera dot com).
It is unclear why Keewee was in NY but it was a common thread for tattooed individuals to pose for Eisenmann. Tattooing was banned by the NZ government in 1890 and it was not until 1962 that the ban was dropped. He is wearing a shirt, tie and jacket underneath his cloak, possibly something to do with missionary work. A beautifully constructed image, in very good condition overall, with slight oxidation around some edges of the verso, and some light foxing in the background of the image. 4 1/8 x 2 1/4" The verso text- Chas. Eisenmann, Photographer, 229 Bowery, New York. Portraits take by Instantaneous Process / Extra inducements to the Theatrical Profession.
Syracuse University collection holds this image- "0078: Unidentified man with striped tattoos on face - recto: Bust view of an unidentified man with a tattoo of bold, symmetrical lines on his chin and cheeks. He is wearing a coat with bow tie beneath what appears to be a fringed robe. He is identified on the card as a Maori man from Aotearoa.; verso text reads, "KeeWee Maori / New Zealand." A search of the National Library of New Zealand's database for "carte de visite Maori" has 404 entries. Most are pictured, and none appear to be the person illustrated on this carte de visite. Very good condition. Item #27936