Berry and Co’s proxy portraits

Copy of a portrait of two unidentified soldiers inscribed Johnson, 1914-1920, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Copy of a portrait of two unidentified soldiers inscribed Johnson, 1914-1920, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

At Te Papa, photos of 30 unidentified World War soldiers are on display in The Berry Boys: Naming the Kiwi faces of War. These men had their photographs taken at the Berry & Co studio sometime during the war, but we no longer know who they are.

The soldier subjects in another 30 ‘Berry Boys’ portraits, like the two men above, did not personally visit Berry & Co’s Cuba Street premises. In fact, some of these sitters are obviously posing at other studios, like the Purvis couple (below) who sat for “Zak” (photographer Joseph Zachariah) in Wellington.

Copy of a portrait of an unidentified soldier and unidentified woman inscribed Purvis, Wellington. Berry & Co, ZAK (Zachariah, Joseph) Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Copy of a portrait of an unidentified soldier and unidentified woman inscribed Purvis, Wellington. Berry & Co, ZAK (Zachariah, Joseph) Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

So how did the negatives of these soldiers, their mates and loved ones come to be in Te Papa’s Berry collection of World War I solider portraits when the men in them did not come anywhere near the Berry studio?

These negatives exist because of a common practice which involved photographers re-photographing prints. Sometimes during the war, photos taken overseas were sent home and copied. If a soldier’s departure was rushed, friends and relatives had to make do with such copies. Or copies might be made after the death of a serviceman, to become memorials.

Copy of a portrait of five unidentified soldiers inscribed Sturmer 6, 1916-1920, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Copy of a portrait of five unidentified soldiers inscribed Sturmer 6, 1916-1920, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

These copy photographs might be of a standard print mounted on a card, such as this one of the Sturmer group (above).

Copy of a portrait of an unidentified soldier inscribed Purves 1 12x10, 1916- 1920, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Copy of a portrait of an unidentified soldier inscribed Purves 1 12×10, 1916- 1920, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Some of the photos appear in frames, like this one of ‘Purves’ who is encircled by a coarsely textured fabric. It may be inserted in a soldiers’ writing kit, as these often incorporated oval windows for displaying photos.

Copy of a portrait of William John Alfred Vetori, 1917, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Copy of a portrait of William John Alfred Vetori, 1917, Wellington. Berry & Co. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

William Vetori was obviously photographed as part of a group, but the person who paid for a copy – a family member, possibly his wife – asked Berry & Co to crop out the other men in the photo.

5 Responses

  1. michael thoms

    I am writing up my Father in Laws story (WW1) as a Petone boy who volunteered, among his items are a good number of photos of Kiwi Soldiers that he sent home to his mother, some I have been able to identify, others not so, these photos have traveled the 100 years since being taken very well and I ask if there is a site we can post these photos we have so that we may both possibly find out who they are and also that if we can find connections the current generations may like copies of the same, regards Michael Thoms

    Reply
  2. librarykris

    I’ve been following the Berry Boys project with interest. This practice of creating copies is fascinating!
    (As an aside – I’ve been going through my own organisation’s archives. Included in it were photos from the person who we think donated them. I’ve been cross-referencing the backgrounds in the Berry pics with the backgrounds in the photos I found to narrow down the year. I’m really enjoying the diverse range of people they took portraits of.)

    Reply
  3. adele

    Would there have been a photographer based in Featherston Camp, as there were other businesses there at the time of WW1. Training Camp.
    I am researching the soldiers buried at Featherston, so take note of the photographs just in case I can match with any I have.

    Reply
    • Kirstie Ross

      Hi Adele
      Yes – there was a photographer based in the township of Featherston. Details are in the two books about the camp – one by Tim Shoebridge and the other Neil Frances. I have also read soldiers’ diaries which mention photographers actually wandering around the camp and taking photos of the men outside their tents etc.
      Kirstie Ross

    • adele

      thanks, have one of Neil’s books, must look it out!

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