Vintage New Zealand: Authentic photos from our past

Coming soon: Vintage New Zealand: Authentic photos from our past


Nine for the billy, Nelson, about 1915-20.

Old photos have always fascinated me, and following on from my Old Nelson: A postcard history 1900-1940 (Nikau Press, 2017) I will publish here from time to time an authentic old photo. Some come from my own private collection, others from those of Rob Packer (my collaborator on Old Nelson) and Logan Coote.  These are fresh, hand-selected images and (Old Nelson excepted) few have been published this century.

For selection, the image has to be an actual, real photo, scanned either from the original print or postcard, or (even better) directly from the glass plate negative, where it first began. This excludes the sort of posts sometimes seen on historical blogs of degraded copy images or reproductions from old weekly publications. The photo must also have strong human interest, irrespective of location. Outdoor photos are preferred, and those with historical “proofs”.  They will have something worth commenting on, despite their usual lack of  documentation. My own background in museum darkroom  and field camera work means I can also comment on the task each image presented to the photographer.

The above image came with an album of Cable Bay photos. Printed directly from a quarter plate, it is only pocket size but the negative was perfectly exposed and printed, with lovely detail. The lady on the right wears gloves and a fur; others wear ties, while the gender ratio is 2: 1 (excluding the photographer!).  Everyone holds a good, solid pose,  as instructed by the photographer. The careful posing and good depth of field suggest tripod work and perhaps a second or two of exposure. A strong image, sharp and well toned, is not that common in amateur photography from this era.

Photo courtesy Logan Coote Collection