Photography and Te Papa in 2014

Photography and Te Papa in 2014

Xmas (Christmas) Greetings, 1890s, by Edwin Pollard. Te Papa (O.004083)

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 regions, which are distinct places with unique and fluid histories. I have written blogs on:

a world class photographer in Blenheim,

the bustling industry of photography in Hokitika that was overlooked by The Luminaries,

-went location scouting in Whanganui and back to view the river,

an old acquisition and some new ones,

one man’s postcard to his father in 1914,

portraiture of working class women,

the 175th anniversary of photography,

royal bedrooms in Dunedin,

early photographs of Christchurch,

-and the closure of photographic archives and libraries.


BNZ, Father Christmas, 1984, by Peter Black. Purchased 2007. Te Papa (O.030989)

However, as the year comes to an end, I am saddened by the news of the proposed budget cuts at the Library of Birmingham in the UK – a place photography critic and writer, Francis Hodgson calls ‘the very centre of British photography’. It prompts me again to think about the importance of speaking for photography and not just using it as illustration.


I am hopeful about 2015 and the opportunity next year offers to continue to speak for photography as an experience and not simply a retelling of a static set of facts and processes.
Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Xmas [Christmas] celebrations – Bill Gamble and his festive bottle, 25 December 1908. From the album: Photograph album; 1907 – 1909; Adkin, Leslie, 1908, Levin, by Leslie Adkin. Gift of Derek Noble, 1997. Te Papa (O.031243)

Lissa Mitchell – Curator Historical Documentary Photography

Follow Lissa on Twitter @rainyslip

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