Hannah Maynard’s Studio
An unconventional woman becomes one of the province’s most prolific photographers
The City of Victoria came of age when photography was still in its infancy. The first photo in human history — a black and white print known as a daguerreotype — was printed in 1838 in France, only five years before James Douglas would oversee the construction of Fort Victoria. The medium was cutting-edge technology for the era. But it wasn't until 1862, on the heels of two gold rushes, that a young woman arrived in Victoria and started one of the city's first photography studios.
Originally from England, Hannah Hatherly Maynard had followed her husband Richard out west during the Cariboo Gold Rush. While he was in the goldfields, Hannah stayed in Victoria and opened her portrait studio on Johnson Street. This display of independence and technical competence by a woman scandalized the more conservative echelons of Victoria, who vowed to boycott her work. Nevertheless, Hannah found a steady stream of eager subjects — from gold miners to sailors to tourists. When Richard returned to Victoria, she taught him what she knew and brought him on as a business partner. The studio became a family affair.
In the ensuing decades, the two captured much of the colony-turned-province on film, opening two more studios in the city as demand for their work grew. Richard specialized in landscape photography and found work with the government documenting infrastructure projects and B.C.'s development. Hannah, meanwhile, had established herself as one of the city's premier portrait photographers and received commissions from a wide range of clients, from the Victoria Police Department to Harvard University's Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
Hannah and Richard worked together for decades, achieving professional success by promoting their work to both local newspapers and major photography publications. Richard retired in 1893, but Hannah continued to run the studio for another 19 years, even after Richard passed in 1907. She finally packed up shop in 1912, after a prolific career during which she had been hailed by the press as both the "leading photographer of Victoria" and "one of the foremost representatives of the profession in the country."
"I think I can say with every confidence," she told the Victoria Daily Colonist upon her retirement, "that we photographed everyone in the town at one time or another." Hannah died in 1918 at the age of 84.
1. Hannah Maynard: An Early Victoria Photographer. Royal B.C. Museum, learning.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Hannah-Maynard-Career.pdf.
2. Richard & Hannah Maynard. Historic Camera, www.historiccamera.com/cgi-bin/librarium2/pm.cgi?action=app_display&app=datasheet&app_id=3268.
3. Roberson, Leslie. “Establishment.” Maynard's Photographic Gallery, University of Victoria, 27 Mar. 2003, web.uvic.ca/~hist66/roberts/establishment.htm.
4. Roberson, Leslie. “Historical Contexts.” Maynard's Photographic Gallery, University of Victoria, 27 Mar. 2003, web.uvic.ca/~hist66/roberts/victoriainfo.htm.
5. Roberson, Leslie. “The Business.” Maynard's Photographic Gallery, University of Victoria, 27 Mar. 2003, web.uvic.ca/~hist66/roberts/Business.htm.
6. Wilks, Claire Weissman. Magic Box: the Eccentric Genius of Hannah Maynard. Exile Editions, 1980.