Posts written by Lissa Mitchell

Curious: Miss Matilda Sanville – the smallest lady in the world


This portrait of Matilda Sanville – the smallest lady in the world (also known as ‘the Fairy Queen’) – was taken in Sydney in 1875 in connection with her appearances in the city and before her tour to New Zealand. The portrait uses known studio portrait conventions of the time to convey Sanville’s size (a… Read more »

More Macey – recent photography acquisitions


Te Papa recently acquired more cabinet card photographs by Blenheim photographer, William H. Macey. Macey’s photographs are a great example of the strength of photography occurring in the regional centres of New Zealand during the late nineteenth century and up to World War I. You can read more about Macey and see more of his… Read more »

Cold comfort photography

photo camp

 It is the beginning of June in New Zealand and if you are a photographer it is the perfect time to go camping. Despite the dire warnings from his friend (referred to as ‘Titfaddle’) concerning the folly of making a six week camping trip in the middle of winter, Alfred Burton and his son Harold, left Dunedin for Lakes Te Anau and… Read more »

On getting in touch about family photographs

Edward and Sarah Corner, Frank Sutcliffe (UK), 1901, cabinet card, courtesy of Ann McDonald.

  One of the nicest things about having so much of Te Papa’s photography collection online is when people write in to say that we hold a photograph of some of their ancestors and are able to identify the people in the photographs. Until recently this large framed photograph of the Read family (above) was… Read more »

Autochromes from the Te Papa collection


Te Papa’s beautiful collection of early colour photographs made using the autochrome process is the focus of new article published by the online journal The Public Domain Review. The article can be accessed on either The Public Domain Review or OpenGlam. Lissa Mitchell – Curator Historical Documentary Photography More Photography? Follow Lissa on Twitter

Photography and Te Papa in 2014

O.31243 Bill Gamble & his festive bottle

I have a confession: I am a bit of a vampire of sorts. I feed on Te Papa’s Photography collection – I use it to think and process ideas, to research and to write. Over the last year I have focused on what I believe counts: connections between photography and small stories about people and places, especially in the… Read more »

William H. Macey – making a fine art of studio portrait photography


I’ve said in a previous blog post that Blenheim photographer William Macey’s cabinet cards elevated the format to an art form. So I thought I had better demonstrate my point by putting together a blog of some of his best studio portraits from those in Te Papa’s photography collection. What I admire about these portraits from his… Read more »

Shooting the Past – the photographic archive as subject


  Recently I’ve been watching a BBC TV mini series about a doomed photography archive – Shooting the Past. The series was released in 1999 and I don’t know how I missed seeing it then but I was busy writing a dissertation on colonial photography (or maybe it didn’t even get played on TV here). The show presents… Read more »