A Different Light: First Photographs of Aotearoa
Catherine Hammond and Shaun Higgins
The mīhini mīharo reveals nineteenth-century Aotearoa as never before.
In 1848, two decades after a French inventor mixed daylight with a cocktail of chemicals to fix the view outside his window onto a metal plate, photography arrived in Aotearoa. How did these ‘portraits in a machine’ reveal Māori and Pākehā to themselves and to each other? Were the first photographs ‘a good likeness’ or were they tricksters? What stories do they capture of the changing landscape of Aotearoa?
From horses laden with mammoth photographic plates in the 1870s to the arrival of the Kodak in the late 1880s, New Zealand’s first photographs reveal Kīngi and governors, geysers and slums, battles and parties. They freeze faces in formal studio portraits and stumble into the intimacy of backyards, gardens and homes.
A Different Light brings together the extraordinary and extensive photographic collections of three major research libraries – Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum, Alexander Turnbull Library and Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena – to coincide with a touring exhibition of some of the earliest known photographs of Aotearoa.
Māu he kāmera! Māu he kāmera! Mā tātou he kāmera!
Catherine Hammond is Hocken Librarian at the University of Otago Te Whare Wānanga o Ōtākou. She manages the cultural collections at Hocken Library and the University Library’s Special Collections. She was formerly head of documentary heritage at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum and research library manager at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
Shaun Higgins is curator pictorial at Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum. He has worked on exhibitions for two decades, most recently Robin Morrison: Road Trip (2023). He has an MA, BA and PGDip from the University of Auckland in anthropology, art history and museum studies, and further qualifications in photography and care and identification of photographs.
Alongside the editors, A Different Light includes essays by Angela Wanhalla (Kāi Tahu), professor of History at the University of Otago; Paul Diamond (Ngāti Hauā, Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), curator, Māori at the Alexander Turnbull Library; Anna Petersen, curator, Photographs at Hocken Collections Uare Taoka o Hākena; and Natalie Marshall, formerly curator, Photographs at Alexander Turnbull Library .