Suspended from a crane’s hook, dangling above the cogs of an industrial machine and clutching his camera, the photographer – who can only be an artistic rendering of Arthur George William “Bill” Sparrow – composes his photograph. The dedication we see in this paper-craft advertisement for Sparrow Industrial Pictures (SIP) was matched in their day to day work as Sparrow and his team of photographers imaged for a wide range of clients and companies. Whether the photographer loomed over their subject matter in a cherry picker or posed a model under bright studio lights, they always got the perfect shot.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira houses and cares for a collection of approximately 50,000 Sparrow Industrial Pictures negatives. Donated to the Museum in 1982 by Commercial Photographers Ltd, these negatives depict images taken, predominantly in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, from 1945 to 1966.1
With time, the function of this body of work has shifted. The collection of negatives was once used to print images for clients. Now, as these negatives are housed within the context of a museum, they function as an archive of cultural memory. Operating during the mid-twentieth century, the images produced by SIP inadvertently capture the zeitgeist of post-war, mid-century Aotearoa New Zealand and its people, fashion, cars, architecture and design.
A SELECTION OF SPARROW INDUSTRIAL PICTURES PHOTOGRAPHS
The Sparrow Industrial Pictures client index lists over 1300 companies, institutions, charities, schools, churches and individuals. Many of these clients still exist and operate today. Others have been acquired and absorbed into other businesses and some have since closed. The following images reflect Sparrow Industrial Pictures’ diverse clients.
Employees photographed outside the Griffin’s Biscuit Factory. The company expanded from John Griffin’s Nelson-based flour and cocoa mill and began producing biscuits in the 1890s.2
Crown Lynn Potteries
Selections of Crown Lynn’s domestic ware ceramics photographed with rulers for scale. The New Lynn-based pottery manufacturer originated from Ambrico, an industrial brick and pipe manufacturing company.3
Schofield & Co
Taking a Holden sedan for a spin. Established in Newmarket in 1924, Schofield’s first operated as a Chevrolet dealership. The Giltrap Group acquired the company in the 1980s.4
Auckland Girls’ Grammar School
A sea of Auckland Girls’ Grammar School students wearing their white-collared uniforms. One of New Zealand’s earliest secondary schools, Auckland Girls’ Grammar was founded in 1888.5
Barfoot & Thompson
The New Zealand real-estate company was established by Val Barfoot in Newmarket in 1923.6 This streetscape depicts an intersection lined with cars leading to Barfoot and Thompson’s “Real Estate House.” Also captured is the building behind it, “Bond & Bond Ltd General Merchants.” The crop lines drawn onto the negative demonstrate the consideration that went into creating the final image.
Holeproof, now owned by Hanesbrands, opened its Auckland factory in 1938 to respond to the demand for stylish swimwear.7 These images were taken at the Parnell Baths.
Auckland Institute and Museum
Although the SIP negatives are now held within the collections of Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, the museum itself was once a client of SIP. This image depicts a mid-century office and workers at the museum. These photographs demonstrate the variety found within the Sparrow Industrial Pictures collection. The composition, angles, lighting, contrast, poses and perspectives that form these images show the focused artistry and skill of the Sparrow Industrial Pictures photographers. The Sparrow Industrial Pictures Collection is a valuable record of both Auckland’s business and commercial photography history – where aesthetic meets industry.
You can see some highlights of the Sparrow Industrial Pictures collection held by Auckland Museum below.
1] Maitland, Gordon. “The Sparrow Photograph Collection.” Auckland War Memorial Museum News, no. 39 (August 1989).
2] Griffin’s . “Celebrating 150 Years of Griffin’s.” Accessed February 9, 2022. https://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1405/150_Years_of_Griffins__Pictorial_Timeline.pdf
3] Te Uru. “Ambrico Window Display.” Accessed February 9, 2022. https://www.teuru.org.nz/index.cfm/whats-on/calendar/ambrico-window-display/
4] Giltrap Group. “History.” Accessed February 9, 2022. https://www.giltrap.com/about-us/our-history/
5] Wikipedia. “Auckland Girls’ Grammar School.” Accessed February 9, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auckland_Girls'_Grammar_School
6] Barfoot & Thompson. “Our Heritage.” Accessed February 9, 2022. https://www.barfoot.co.nz/about-us/our-history
7] Hunter, Ian. “Factory Industries – Protecting factories, 1945 to the 1960s.” Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Updated March 11, 2010. https://teara.govt.nz/en/factory-industries/page-4
Cite this article
Sparrow Industrial Pictures. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 25 May 2022. Updated: 12 October 2022.