Auckland Museum is on a quest to discover who the people are in a collection of early New Zealand photographs. Can you help us with our search? Read on to find out more.
These 110-year-old photographs were discovered recently after some glass plate negatives were digitised at Auckland Museum. The glass plate negatives were donated to the Museum in 2016.
The images give a remarkable insight into a New Zealand before living memory. They depict a range of people, places and scenes of domestic life that would have been familiar to a cross-section of pākehā society at the time.
Like all good detective stories, the collection poses more questions than it answers. Who were the people in these pictures? Did they know each other? Why were they taken and what events were being recorded? Did the subjects know the photographer? Why are there only 120 negatives remaining from a period of nearly 15 years?
When they were donated, Museum staff noted that the negatives had been purchased in the 1970s at Auckland’s City Market, an area which is now occupied by Aotea Square. Unfortunately, no other details about the negatives were recorded and the negatives’ origins became lost over time.
Auckland Museum Assistant Curator of Documentary Heritage Ian Proctor is turning to the public to help solve this mystery and give back identity to the subjects and their photographer.
In seeking to identify the people featured, Ian hopes to find the connection between them and finally discover the story behind this collection.
Do you recognise anyone in these images? If so, please contact Pictorial@aucklandmuseum.com with details.
Below we've posted some of the images with descriptions and what we can ascertain from looking at them, such as the place and time the photo was taken.
Regardless of whether you recognise anyone, we hope you enjoy perusing these photos of a bygone era.
The varied quality of the images, along with developing errors, reveal that they were taken by an amateur. However, the staging and arrangement of some clearly suggest the photographer was influenced by and wanted to create photographs in the style of professional studio photographers. Inexperienced technique has also resulted in the condition of the negatives deteriorating over time, which is seen on some of the images.
There is little to identify the photographer or his subjects. Whether there is a connection between the sitters of the anonymous portraits is unknown, especially as they cover a variety of social classes and backgrounds. Some are intimate for the times and hint at a possible family connection between the photographer and sitter. It is these portraits which have given the collection its charm, and which are the most intriguing.