Richard Parkinson started his apprenticeship at the Trading House 'Godeffroy' and in 1876 was sent to Apia and Samoa to set up plantations and to buy goods for the stores. In 1882, Parkinson moved to Neu-Pommern where he became acquainted with the German colonies there. He then began to document the customs by photographing the inhabitants and his most well-known images were published in 1894 in two volumes on the Papua-Types (this was published again in 1900 in conjunction with Adolf Bernard Mayer). His work was also published in magazines including Internationale Archiv für Ethnographie and Globus in 1887. He travelled to the South Seas on several occasions and his most important publication is entitled Thirty Years in the South Seas, 1907.