Biographical entry: Beattie, John Watt (1859 - 1930)



John Watt Beattie was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1859 and migrated to Tasmania, Australia in 1878 with his parents, who settled in the Derwent Valley. In 1879, Beattie began to take photos of the Tasmanian bush, and took up photography full-time in 1882 as a partner with the Anson Brothers, gaining sole control of the business in 1891. He became Tasmania's leading photographer, excelling in portraits, nature photography and in promoting the island's economic potential. In 1906, he accepted the invitation of Bishop Cecil Wilson (q.v.) to sail to Melanesia, Polynesia and Norfolk Island in the Diocese of Melanesia's Southern Cross (q.v.). His hundreds of photos from this trip were some of the best ever taken in Melanesia in these early years and have been published in many places. He kept a diary on this trip (Beattie 1906) and in 1909 published a catalogue of the photos. In 1927, he sold a large part of his collection to the Launceston Corporation, which material is still held in Tasmania's Queen Victoria Museum, Launceston. Other photos can be found in the Tasmanian Museum, Hobart, Auckland Institute and Museum, Chicago's Field Museum, and the British Museum, particularly those associated with the Melanesian Mission. Although Beattie died in Hobart in 1930, his company continued to sell his prints until the 1980s. (Welsch 1998, 26-27; Beattie 1906, 1909)

Related Cultural Artefacts

Published resources


  • Beattie, John W., Catalogue of a Series of Photographs Illustrating the Scenery and Peoples of the Islands in the South and Western Pacific, J.W. Beattie, Hobart, 1909. Details

Edited Books

  • Welsch, Robert L. (ed.), An American Anthropologist in Melanesia: A.B. Lewis and the Joseph N. Field South Pacific Expedition, 1909-1913, University of Hawai`i Press, Honolulu, 1998. Details


  • Beattie, John W. (ed.), Journal of a Voyage to the Western Pacific in the Melanesian Mission Yacht Southern Cross, Royal Society of New Zealand, Hobart, 1906. Details