Early New Zealand Photography Images And Essays Online

Today it’s hard to imagine life without photographic images. Their ubiquity extends from the newspaper to the art gallery, from the billboard to the family album, from product packaging to the internet.

The history of photography in New Zealand dates from early European settlement. Daguerreotypes may have been made here as early as 1841, a year after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Because of the limitations of the equipment early photographs were principally studio portraits, of both Māori and settlers. But as soon as technologies allowed, the more hardy photographers took their gear outside and started capturing the landscape and recording the growth of our towns and cities.

New developments in photography soon made their way to our shores, with each allowing more people to pick up a camera and start making images. In less than 200 years the medium has gone from unique copper-plate positives to endlessly reproducible digital bytes, via glass plates and numerous types of film.

George Silk, Brian Brake and Anne Geddes are among a small number of New Zealand photographers who have made a name for themselves on the international stage in the commercial, advertising, or fine art genres. However, it is debatable whether any have had a lasting influence overseas.

While Māori were a common subject in photography’s early days, local practitioners tended to follow overseas fashions until the wave of New Zealand nationalism struck in the mid-20th century. Today, most of the high-profile practitioners once again aim for internationalism rather than producing images with a recognisable local flavour.

Since the 1970s photography has grown in public popularity and exhibitions regularly attract large audiences. Mirroring overseas trends, art collectors were slow to accept the peculiarities of the photographic image in comparison with visual arts such as painting. However, attitudes have changed in recent years.

Friday, 1 November 2013 9:49am

Images and Essays

Edited by Angela Wanhalla & Erika Wolf

The book

We are all participants in an increasingly visual culture, yet we rarely give thought to the ways that photographs shape our experience and understanding of the world and historical past. This book looks at a range of New Zealand photographs up to 1918 and analyses them as photo-objects, considering how they were made, who made them, what they show and how our understanding of them can vary or change over time. This emphasis on the materiality of the photograph is a new direction in scholarship on colonial photographs.

The writers include photographers, museum curators, academics and other researchers. Their essays are not intended as definitive readings but rather offer a variety of ways in which to read the images they have chosen. In the course of the book, they explore a host of issues related to the development of photography in New Zealand. World War I is the end point, as it coincided with profound cultural shifts with the expansion of the mass illustrated press and the rise of consumer photography, as well as a change in New Zealand's place in the world.

The editors

ANGELA WANHALLA is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Otago. She specialises in the histories of cultural encounter in New Zealand's colonial past, focusing on gender, race and colonialism in the nineteenth century, the indigenous history of the North American West, and the history of intimacy, particularly interracial relationships and hybridity. She is the author of In/visible sight: The mixed descent families of southern New Zealand (Wellington, 2009) and co-editor with Annabel Cooper and Lachy Paterson of The Lives of Colonial Objects (Otago University Press, 2015).

ERIKA WOLF lectures in art history and theory at the University of Otago. A graduate of Princeton and Michigan universities, her primary field of research is Soviet art and visual culture. She is the author of Koretsky: The Soviet photo poster, 1930–1984 (New York, 2012). She has recently extended her research to both historic and contemporary New Zealand photography.


Wayne Barrar, Roger Blackley, Gary Blackman, Chris Brickell, Barbara Brookes, Sandy Callister, Simon Dench, Jocelyne Dudding, Keith Giles, Jill Haley, Ken Hall, Ruth Harvey, Kerry Hines, Antje Lübcke, Brian Moloughney, Max Quanchi, Rebecca Rice, Cathy Tuato'o Ross, Simon Ryan, Angela Wanhalla, Christine Whybrew, Erika Wolf

Publication details

Paperback, 240 x 190 mm, 208 pages, ISBN 978 1 877578 16 8, $50.00 / £29.50 UK

Out of print


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