RING, James

James Ring (1856-1939) was born in Camberwell, England on 6 April 1856 the son of Stephen Ring, a carpenter and Harriet Ring nee Elph.

The 1861 census of Camberwell shows James Ring then aged 6 years at 14 Harris Street, Camberwell with his parents and brothers William and John and sister Esther. Ten years later the census shows the family still at 14 Harris Street, James now aged 16 years, is employed as an errand boy. Another sister Sarah aged 8 years is also shown.

 Allen and Rowell
25 Winter Street, Boston, USA 

In the late 1870's James Ring went to America, and for some time was a diligent student in the famous studio of Messrs Allen and Rowell, Boston, and gained an extensive knowledge of photography in its varied branches - The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Vol 5. Nelson, Marlborough and Westland 1906.


New Zealand
from 1879

He arrived in Wellington on the ship "Pleione" on 1 April 1879 from London. After seven months in Wellington he traveled to Greymouth arriving early in November 1879, there he commenced employment with H. Williams. Then in early 1881 he took over the photographic studio of W. H. Perkins, who had been in business in Greymouth for 14 years. In the Grey River Argus of 4 January 1881 he offered six cartes de visite for the price of 12s 6d. He was described as a "first-class Artist with many years experience in London Studios."

Grey River Argus, Volume XXIII, Issue 3518, 29 November 1879

Inangahua Times, Volume II, Issue II, 19 April 1880

Grey River Argus, Volume XXIII, Issue 3815, 16 November 1880
[this notice first appeared in the Grey River Argus on 6 November 1880]

Grey River Argus, Volume XXIII, Issue 6863, 14 January 1881
[this notice first appeared in the Grey River Argus on 4 January 1881]

He married Kate Maria Vinsen, a milliner, at Greymouth on 17 April 1882.

Ring - Vinsen, on the 17th inst, by the Rev. J. P. Kempthorne, James, youngest son of Stephen Ring, of Camberwell, London, to Kate Maria, eldest daughter of Robert Vinsen, of Cambridge, England.

In 1883 he went on a photographic trip south of Greymouth and on his return offered for sale a series of views including the Waimangaroa Gorge and the Westport Colliery Company's incline tramway. These photographic expeditions became a regular feature of James Ring's work over the coming years and would provide a valuable record of the West Coast for future generations. In 1885 he returned to Greymouth after taking "some excellent views" along the road to Christchurch.

In 1886 he was involved in a civil case in the Magistrate's Court against Charles Spencer which involved a claim of £20 for breach of agreement with reference to some views of the volcanic eruption at Tarawera. That same year he offered for sale a large number of "photo cards" suitable for use as Christmas cards. These showed New Zealand scenes including the famous White and Pink Terraces of Rotomahana, as well as a large number of local scenes including Greymouth, Brunner and Hokitika.

Starvation Point, Otira Gorge by James Ring
Otira Gorge
523 J.R.

The top of Otira Gorge by James Ring

Otira Gorge by James Ring

At the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London in 1886 James Ring was awarded a diploma and bronze medal for photography. These arrived in New Zealand in 1887, the Grey River Argus reported that the diploma was "signed by Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and countersigned by Sir Phillip Cunliffe Owen, Secretary to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition. The bronze medal is a very handsome piece of workmanship. On the reverse side is an effigy of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and on the obverse side are the words "Colonial Exhibition, 1886."

Mr D P. Anderson, acting on behalf of Mr Jas. Ring, photographer, has purchased the unoccupied section adjoining Mr Cereseto's property, lower Broadway (in Reefton). It is Mr Ring's intention to erect a studio on the site.
Inangahua Times, Volume XI, Issue 1955, 23 December 1887, Page 2

After a professional visit to some of the towns south of Greymouth James Ring returned to Greymouth in November 1891 and offered for sale a "nice variety of photo Xmas cards" and cabinet, carte and midget photos at reasonable prices.

He was the Secretary and Treasurer of the Greymouth Poultry, Bird and Dog Society in 1895. In December the following year he offered again some scenic views as Christmas or New Year presents and a novelty to Greymouth the "Paris Panel." (a photographic mount 10 inches x 7 1/4 inches)

James Ring took several photos of the bridal party and guests at the marriage of Mr. H. B. Barnett to Miss Hetty Kerr in Greymouth in 1897.

On 10 February 1899 "The Greymouth Argus" reported that "by the Home mail last evening Mr James Ring received word that his father died in London some weeks ago, having reached, to the age of 76."

For Christmas 1900 he offered his customers "all the latest styles in Photos - Paris Panels, Cabinet, Bonetas and Trilby." Twelve Cabinets and one 15x 12 enlargement would cost 17s 6d and Midget Photos were 5s per dozen. He also had available a large assortment of dredge views.

The Greymouth Argus gave the following account of James Ring's work on 24 July 1901.

If you come to think about it there is something wonderful in the art of the photographer. That a tiny film, in which there is nothing attractive, should be able to take, and retain the impress of a bit of landscape or a human face, seems to be akin to the supernatural. At one time the photographer would probably have been burned for a wizard, as the inventor of an uncanny instrument. It is the popular belief that a good photographer depends: principally on the mechanism, but such is far from the case. He must be capable for something more than pressing a button after he has placed the camera in position. He must have an eye for light and shade and effect; must have a good knowledge of chemicals; must be a man ofstrong patience, and above all must have the instinct of an artist.

Mr James Ring undoubtedly displays artistic talent in his work. It has frequently been a matter of surprise to visitors from other parts of the colony and to tourists that photographs are produced in this centre which in tone, tint, material, and faithfulness of reproduction are abreast of those of the advanced studios of England and the Continent. This has been a striking compliment to the artistic merit of Mr Ring's work, who is the only photographer in Greymouth, he having caused every competitor who has come along to close his doors.

Mr Ring received his training under happy auspices. He spent a number of years in one of the best houses in London, where he made quite a reputation in enlargement work, people coming to him from other establishments to observe his methods. Eventually, he went over to the States, returning, however, after some time to London.

Then he decided to throw in his lot with colonists, and came to New Zealand. After a period spent in Wellington, 22 years ago he came to Greymouth and opened a studio on his present site, the premises having been considerably enlarged in subsequent years. Mr Ring has made a big reputation on the West Coast, and the specimen's of his photography force the conviction that he would thrive in Wellington, where that art is somewhat behind hand.

At one time he made periodical visits to Reefton, Kumara and Hokitika, but his local business became so rigorous in its demands that he required all his time to attend to it, his old customers and many new ones in these days of railways coming hither wards when they need the services of a photographer. His studio in Mawhera Quay is quite an institution to foot passengers along that thoroughfare, hundreds of whom almost daily stop to examine the portraiture displayed in the outer windows or in the vestibule. Those in the reception room are extremely good specimens of his work embracing all kinds of photography, face, figure, groups, and land and seascape. The studio itself is roomy, and well fitted with modern accessories, the management of the light lending itself to good work. An up-to-date camera is installed and in the hands of Mr Ring himself is a valuable instrument. If such a term could be used, Mr Ring seems to specialise in all classes of photography. His studies are admirable, and at one time and another prelates of churches from other centres and colonies and visitors who have sat to him have warmly praised the life-like presentments that he obtains. Victorians declaring that they could not get better work in Melbourne. With children especially he seems to have the faculty of placing his subjects at their ease, and at Home he was known as the "Baby photographer". This is a great thing, his posing demonstrating patience and a happy judgment.

As might be supposed he has a big connection in enlargements, orders coming to him from all around and from other centres. Among his negatives are those of leading local people and to all intents in his studio is to be found quite a history of faces and public occasions, which have distinguished Greymouth for the last twenty years. His outdoor work has attracted considerable attention. Groups on public occasions and studies of town and harbour, and of surrounding scenery have been reproduced with fidelity, and successful series of the wreck and launching of the s.s. “Mapourika” have found their way to different parts of the world.

His views of the magnificent west coast scenery are also noted, his studies on the Otira and Buller Gorges with some even more beautiful but less well known localities being the best to be obtained, and from time to time are in large demand beyond the bounds of Greymouth. In recent days there has been a big sale of his gold dredging scenes, a good representation being given of this industry as followed on the West Coast. Altogether Greymouth is to be congratulated on having so capable an operator, and people have no need to go to the cities for high-class photography. In prices as in work he compares with the best in the colony.

In March 1903 he displayed in his studio some photographs of the Coal Creek Falls near Greymouth. The Greymouth Argus stated that they "are a revelation to many of the old residents of the district. The rare beauty of the scenes depicted is equalled only by the artistic perfection of the photographs. Mr Ring is to be deservedly complimented on the excellence of his work and its use in bringing under the notice of the community the scenic gem of beauty that obtains within an hour's walk of Mawhera Quay."

In 1904 he photographed the swimming club polo team. In September he was unwell and took a holiday trip to Sydney lasting seven weeks returning via Christchurch. The Greymouth School Board elected him the Chairman in 1906, he was also on the Committe of the Greymouth Poultry Club that year and won a number of prizes for pidgeons in the Second Annual Show and he was made a Justice of the Peace. In July that year he photographed the Grey School Cadets. The photograph was said to show that "the young lads look every-inch soldiers and the picture does full justice to every one of them." In his studio he had on view a "splendid" photograph of the Kotuku hot water geyser.

New Zealand International Exhibition 1906-07
Excellent specimens of the photographer's art are to be exhibited at the New Zealand International Exhibition by Mr. J. Ring, of this town, whose work will, it is believed, compare favourably with that from any other part of the colony, to be shown, at Christchurch.

The photographs are full-sized enlargements, and the subjects are West Coast alpine, bush, river, and lake scenery. Several of the enlargements have been secured by the Science Sub-committee of the local Exhibition committee. Included in the photographs to be shown either by the Greymouth Committee, or by Mr. Ring himself are too fine views, one of bush and mountain scenery in the vicinity of Kelly's Creek, four miles from Otira, and the other of Kelly's range, between Otira and Kumara.

Very fine also are two views of Lake Brunner showing the wonderful reflections in that body of water. The views of the Hohonu peaks will undoubtedly rank high as an example of photographic art.

There are two very lovely scenes on the old Marsden road, one-showing a beautiful bank of ferns; one of Coal Creek falls, one of Rocky Island, Grey River, opposite Wallsend, and an excellent view of Otira Gorge taken from the top of that magnificent mountain pass.

There are numerous others and the whole collection is one calculated to show that in the matter of photography the West Coast is quite as up-to-date as the larger centres of the colony.
Grey River Argus, 5 October 1906, Page 2

Dillman Town [now Dillmanstown] shewing Flumings, no. 222 by James Ring
photograph courtesy of Smith's Bookshop Tannery Emporium, 3 Garlands Road, Woolston, Christchurch 8023.

The Brunner suspension bridge, originally built in 1876, connects the site of the Tyneside Mine on the southern bank of the Grey River with the Brunner Mine on the northern bank. 
photograph by James Ring
photograph courtesy of Smith's Bookshop Tannery Emporium, 3 Garlands Road, Woolston, Christchurch 8023.

 Ross looking South, no. 217 by James Ring
 photograph courtesy of Smith's Bookshop Tannery Emporium, 3 Garlands Road, Woolston, Christchurch 8023.

 Greymouth from Cobden, no. 299 by James Ring
photograph courtesy of Smith's Bookshop Tannery Emporium, 3 Garlands Road, Woolston, Christchurch 8023.

 Union Steam Ship Company's "Omapere" no. 362 by James Ring
 photograph courtesy of Smith's Bookshop Tannery Emporium, 3 Garlands Road, Woolston, Christchurch 8023.

Arnold River, Moana.
J. Ring Photo.
no. 2053 Protected 12 June 1906

Hohonu Peaks from Iveagh Bay. 
Lake Brunner, N.Z.
101 JR

Reflections on Lake Brunner, West Coast

A logging settlement on a river near Lake Brunner

The Grey River Argus and Blackball News reported in June 1907 that - "there is at present on view at the studio of Mr James Ring, the well-known photographer of this town, a fine photograph of the steamer Arahura crossing the “bar outwards in the teeth of a fairly heavy” southwesterly gale. The picture was taken at a moment when the steamer vas almost obscured from view by a big roller, the vessel being seen through a veil of spray. The picture is undoubtedly a triumph of the photographer's art and has evoked much favourable comment."

Protected 18 April 1907

 James Ring with his sons Leslie, Gus and Claude, in Greymouth [ca 1911]
 Reference No. PAColl-2059-1-1
Part of Shanks, Claudia: Photographs of the Prince of Wales, Ring family and Rangiruru School (PAColl-2059)

James Ring's son William Augustus Ring (Gus) accepted a position with the Government Life Insurance Office in 1906 and moved to Wanganui. After 30 years in New Zealand James Ring returned to England for a visit in 1908 and returned early in December. Leslie Ring, the second son of James Ring after completion an apprenticeship at the Dispatch Foundry Company, was appointed third engineer on the steamer "Petone" in April 1911, he was promoted to second engineer the following year. The eldest son James Claude Ring married at Knox Church, Dunedin on 24 June 1911 to Winifred Margaret Beattie the youngest daughter of the late Robert Beattie of Christchurch.

Above - two scenes by James Ring of the Otira Gorge, one taken on 8 April 1911 and one taken on 11 February 1913.

The stranding of the Maoriland Company’s steamer Lauderdale caused quite a sensation in Greymouth and throughout the day hundreds visited the scene of the disaster.

Photo courtesy of Steven McLachlan of Shades Stamp Shop Ltd. http://wwwnewzeal.com/steve
Mr James Ring ... has on view some excellent pictures of the stranded Lauderdale. They were much admired by many yesterday.
Grey River Argus, 29 June 1910, Page 4 


Photo courtesy of Steven McLachlan of Shades Stamp Shop Ltd. http://wwwnewzeal.com/steve

At the outbreak of World War One James Ring photographed the local troops as they left by train for Christchurch. "Some very expeditious, as well as high-class photographic work has been accomplished at the studio of the well-known photographer, Mr. James Ring, during the dispatch of the West Coast troops to Christchurch. Last Saturday morning Mr. Ring “snapped” the men on the march to the railway station, and the photograph in very large size was on exhibition, suitably framed, shortly after 10am, which, it must be allowed is a smart piece of work. At present Mr. Ring has on view photos from card size upwards of the men at the drill hall, on the march to the station, and entraining, and the series would be a fitting souvenir of a very important event in the history of the West Coast, and an evidence if the part it played in the great European crisis. The work been executed in excellent style, and reflects credit on the capabilities of the local studio."


Photo courtesy of Steven McLachlan of Shades Stamp Shop Ltd.

  From Wise's Directory 1890-91

The Cyclopedia of New Zealand. Vol 5.
Nelson, Marlborough and Westland 1906


RING, JAMES, Artist and Photographer, Mawhera Quay, Greymouth. Established 1880. Bankers, Bank of New South Wales. Private residence, Tainui Street. The studio is a two-storied building, situated in the principal thoroughfare, and is undoubtably one of the best equipped in the Middle Island. Mr. Ring's superior work and finish have obtained for him a very wide patronage. He sent a fine specimen of his work to the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, held in London in the year 1886, and gained a medal for artistic beauty, excellence of finish, and general softness of work. His views of New Zealand are surpassed by those of no other firm in the colony, and the collection is in every way replete. Some of his productions in the pages of the Cyclopedia speak for themselves.

Mr. Ring was born in London, England, where he was educated, and brought up as an artist. He went to America, and for some time was a diligent student, in the famous studio of Messrs Allen and Rowell, Boston, and gained an extensive knowledge of photography in it varied branches. Mr. Ring came to New Zealand in 1879, in the ship "Pleione," and landed at Wellington*, where he set himself up in Molesworth Street; but owing to ill-health he went to the West Coast where he established his studio in 1880. He is a church worker, and has been superintendent of the Presbyterian Sunday school for over twenty years. He is also a member of the school committee.

His sisters were Esther Turner of 65 Harlescott Road, Nunhead, London and Sarah Ring of 3 Barcombe Ave, Streatham, London. He died at Greymouth on 19 July 1939.

*He is probably the second cabin passenger "James King" shown on the passenger list in the Evening Post of 16 July 1879. The vessel left London on 1 April with 30 passengers and arrived off Wellington on 16 July 1879.
(Image - http://digital.natlib.govt.nz/get/31267?profile=access )

Roll of Honour
Lieutenant Leslie Ring.
Mr James Ring, yesterday received the sad intelligence that his second son, Leslie, had been killed in action in France. This is indeed sad news and Mr and Mrs Ring and family will have the sincere sympathy of a large circle of friends.

Lieut. Ring, was an engineer by profession, and served his time in the Dispatch Foundry, Greymouth. On the completion of his indentures he went to sea, eventually joining a Home liner, on which was serving when war broke out. He subsequently joined the colours, sat for his commission and having gained same, was attached to a British regiment, and proceeded to France. Lieut. Ring married in England. and leaves a wife and child to mourn the loss a sterling man. Mr Ring has another son, Gus, on active service.

Grey River Argus, 9 October 1918, Page 3

Inangahua Times, 4 April 1890, Page 3

A view of native tree felling across hilly terrain near Lake Brunner.
by James Ring

above - Sawmill, Lake Brunner about 1906

above - Lake Brunner about 1906

West Coast Bush no. 274 by James Ring
School children by James Ring, Greymouth
[purchased September 2021]


above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above - a CDV of an unknown couple by James Ring of Greymouth and Reefton


above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above - Mr and Mrs Patterson

James Ring

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection

above cdv courtesy of The Laurence Eagle Collection


above - John Merewether by James Ring
[perhaps John Merewether who died 20 April 1949 aged 81 years, reg. 1949/22917]

Andrew Burn Suter D.D. (1830-1895), the second Bishop of Nelson
by James Ring

 Frank Moeller by James Ring
 Frank Moeller [Francis Gordon Moeller], Proprietor of the Masonic Hotel, Napier, son of Elizabeth Payne and Philip Moeller, grandson of Leyser Moeller, [who died 15 February 1875, Posen, Prussia], born 24 April 1861, Woodend, Melbourne, Australia, died 1 October 1919, at the residence of Leslie Harling McHardy, Blackhead Station, East Coast, NZ, married 18 August 1892 at the Registrar's Office, Napier, Winifred Ryan of Kanieri, Westland.


Harriet Langdon nee Miller by James Ring
[purchased Septeber 2021] 




"This is George the eldest son, & his wife"

"This is my third son Joe"

unknown family photographed by James Ring
[purchased May 2022]

unknown woman photographed by James Ring
[purchased May 2022]


 111 Buller Gorge, N.Z.

116 Glacier, from Waiho River, N.Z.

117 Cobden Bridges, Greymouth, N.Z.

Broken River and Railway Station, N.Z.

 Public Buildings, Hokitika, N.Z.

Protected 27 September 1909
 Ring photo

 "Broad, Ida nee Newton, Dorothy, Charles V., Frances I. & C.F.A."
Photograph by James Ring


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