In my role as Curator Pictorial I manage photography and artwork collections in Documentary Heritage with responsibility for collection development and research in this area. I support exhibitions and public programmes providing collection expertise and interpretation. The public often request advice on identification and preservation as well as public talks and show and tell sessions with the collections in the museum library. Recent research and collection development initiatives include work on commemoration for the WWI centenary, collaboration with photographers in Auckland's communities and further research on early Auckland daguerreotypists.
Research interests and projects
With a strong interest in 19th century photography and New Zealand's photographic history, one of my primary areas of focus is early New Zealand photography in both identification/attribution and wider historic context with the aim of building a comprehensive record helping to expand our understanding of early daguerreotypists and the beginning of photography here.
Another area of interest is conflict photography encompassing both the social dimension of everyday life as well as photojournalism and documentary photography. Examples include research on Waikato photography in 1863 and a closer look at Anzac photography during the 1915 Gallipoli campaign.
Future work will include looking at in situ war art, especially paintings and drawings on appropriated materials ranging from scraps of newspaper to bed canvas. Never far from a loupe, I consider forensic analysis an important research tool developed from work on micro-wear analysis and forensic photography. Detailed study of photographs enables identification of process and time period as well as the investigation of evidence towards attribution and use.
I am interested in the application of computer vision to photography. Examples include photogrammetric modelling and face recognition applied to the photographic record.
In my spare time I like to play with cameras both old and new. Practicing the technical process of photography in all its forms goes hand in hand with understanding the resulting work. I welcome contact from those with similar research interests and would love to hear from students, scholars, photographers and family historians with ideas and questions relating to my research interests and the collection.
Selected research publications
Higgins, S. (2016). Hartley Webster Daguerreotypes. Back Story: Journal of New Zealand Art, Media & Design History, Dec 2016; Issue 1.
Higgins, S. (2015). Early New Zealand Daguerreotypes. Daguerreian Annual 2015, 204-213.
Fenton, D. & Higgins, S. (2015). The Anzacs: An inside view of New Zealanders at Gallipoli. Penguin, Auckland.
Higgins, S. (2014). Identifying old family photographs. New Zealand Genealogist, Feb 2014; v.45 n.345.
See Shaun's full list of published research
Explore the collection
Read articles by Shaun.
After Gallipoli, the men and horses of the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade returned to Egypt. As part of the newly formed Anzac Mounted Division, they were back in action at Romani in August 1916.
Auckland Anniversary weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Auckland Airport. In the early 1960s, Māngere photographer Trevor Penman documented the transformation - from an aerodrome to an international gateway.
Aerial photography is almost as old as the aeroplane itself. Weekly News photographer George Bourne was one of the early adopters of the genre, flying with his friends the Walsh brothers.
View photographs of South and Western Pacific life taken by J. W. Beattie in 1906. The original glass plate images are digitised for easy viewing.
Most families will have a cased photograph or two in a closet shoebox. These are instantly recognisable as 19th century photography, but how many were actually made in New Zealand?