This week Faraway Places: 19th century travel photography in Te Papa’s Ilott Gallery has had all its photographs replaced with 22 new ones. This is because nineteenth century photographs are vulnerable to damage by light, so the six-month exhibition has been divided into two halves, each with a different, though similar, selection of work. Often this simply entailed replacing like with like, sometimes even just turning a page in an album, but in one area there has also been a shift in emphasis.
In the previous hang there was a small selection of New Zealand photographs. These were included to make the point that the faraway is relative and that from the point of view of people living in Europe and the UK, New Zealand was an exotic and faraway place. Such images are now replaced with ones of people, for nineteenth century albums containing photographs of distant lands often also included images of their inhabitants – preferably dressed in exotic looking traditional costume.
The Pacific in particular was commonly represented by people rather than landscapes, usually with photographs of attractive young women adorned with flowers. Sometimes they were posed topless, though that would not have been how they dressed every day. Te Papa has a very strong collection of photographs taken by Samoa-based photographer Thomas Andrew and two of his images appear in this exhibition.