Christmas marks that another year has just about gone. Another year of change, doubt, joy, laughter and sorrow. Another year that those who have passed don’t know about.
If I made a Christmas card from a photograph in the collection I would probably choose the image above. The photograph, taken by Leslie Adkin on 25 December 1905 near Levin, shows his family seated at a dinner table laid with a dish of roasted meat, various china serving dishes, crystal glassware and vases of summer flowers.
The family have dressed up for the meal and have been photographed between mouthfuls with cutlery poised. The small clock on the mantelpiece appears to read 2.10pm. It seems the Christmas tree (which looks to be native rather than pine) is still awaiting decoration – possibly an activity for after lunch.
The mirror above the fireplace reflects part of the table, the boy with the white pointed collar and the tree – a reminder of the way photographs show what photographers select and record – small portions of the world, snippets of stories.
Images like this share the past and build stories of ritual-like habits of Christmas feasting in Aotearoa; the way traditions come and go and evolve to suit each day. It also shows Adkin’s skill as a young photographer. Taken inside without the help of artificial lighting or a flash he manages – probably with the help of the family all sitting still – to get a good clear shot.
So this is a card of sorts – sending good wishes for a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.