On its own, each object in the Museum's collection tells a story, and, together, they describe a much deeper narrative. But in photographing those objects for the Museum's records, the photographer must record both the object's human story and its physical attributes – each nick and scratch, every dog-eared corner and patched hole. In this blog, Collection Photographer Richard Ng reflects on photographing the 21st Battalion Association collection.

You can also explore these photographs in a Google Arts & Culture exhibition here.

The 21st Battalion Association Collection was an intriguing collection to photograph due to the variety in type, textures and sizes of objects – ranging from a soldier’s paybook to a clubhouse bar counter, from a grenade and mortars to a pie warmer. The objects are relatively modern with some showing signs of use or natural weathering by time. Every object, with all its character and intricate details, was lit and accurately photographed in its own specific studio lighting setup. To maintain the integrity of all our digital files there was no post-processing to be done to the image, making it critical to ensure we get a true image representation of the object in-camera at the point of capture.


Image: Spectacles, 2019.62.52, Photographed 06 Mar 2020, © Auckland Museum CC BY 

The challenges we, as photographers, face is not only to accurately digitise each and every object to meet archival standards, but also to exercise our innate creative desire to bring the objects to life – seeing each in a new light. Doing it justice.

Even though most of the objects are from modern times, it was not lost on me the historical significance and stories they hold. Being the collection imaging photographer, I have the opportunity and honour to append to the story – adding our digital layer to the object’s history. 


Image: British officer's dress sword (ERI), 2019.62.24, Photographed 10 Mar 2020, © Auckland Museum CC BY 

Out of the whole 21st Battalion Association collection, the objects I found most striking and the most satisfying to photograph were the personal possession items, weaponry, and objects that are distinctly 21st Battalion Association clubhouse furniture and accessories. Below is a selection of my favourites:


Image: Soldier's Pay Book (2) with inclusions belonging to 248259 Cpl. Gordon Cameron Coutts, 2019.62.633, Photographed 7 May 2020, © Auckland Museum CC BY 

Technical notes

The collection was photographed using Canon 5DS with EF100mm f/2.8L Macro and EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM

Studio lights are Broncolor Siros with various light modifiers.