Vintage NZ: Candid group, Te One School

Candid group, Te One School, Chatham Island, about 1910.

This is AUGUST in my Vintage New Zealand 2019 calendar – see it at

What’s refreshing in this “study” from a remote community is the unusual spontaneity, for the era. Because exposures were longer (small fractions of a second, typically) and focus usually shallow, group photos taken by glass plate cameras tended to be formal. People adopted poses they could keep, from the moment the cameraman said “Hold it!”, until the clicking of the shutter and his more relaxed demeanour. If they moved, their image would be blurry, and this would mar the whole photo – a waste of money as well as effort.

Here though, the photographer has winged it, and made a small sacrifice in sharpness in order to obtain this charming picture of horse-play, so rare in the record of the times. The man with the camera is believed to be young Harold Silcock (1883-1951), who taught at another  school on the island from 1910-1912. Silcock later moved to the Nelson region, and died at Richmond. His negatives of Chatham Island and South Canterbury scenes were then sold at auction, but about 40 years later. I bought them.