Friday, 3 October 2014

Visiting Price's Corner Studio on The Strand

Joseph and Kate Brain with their five daughters
Cabinet card portrait by Thos. E. Price of Tauranga, taken c.1898
Image courtesy of the Brain Watkins House Collection
When Joseph Brain took his wife Kate and five daughters into Thomas Price's newly commissioned and lavishly appointed studio on the corner of Harington Street and the Strand in the late 1890s, it was with the expectation equivalent to a special event.  Although only a fifteen minute walk from their house on Cameron Road, the streets were unpaved and they were dressed to the nines, so they would have taken care to avoid getting their clothes dusty en route.  The pre-printed card mount shows "Masterton" crossed out and "Tauranga" written below in black ink, indicating that he was still using the remnants of old card stock.

Victoria Wharf and The Strand, Tauranga, c.1902
Photograph by Henry Wright, Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library
Thomas Edward Price (1838-1928) arrived in Tauranga in early 1897, having sold his photographic firm in Masterton in December the previous year, and announced on 31 May in The Bay of Plenty Times that his new studio was now open for business.  It was conveniently located on the waterfront, immediately opposite the Tauranga Hotel at the head of the Victoria Wharf, on what would subsequently become known as Price's Corner.  The town's previous resident photographer, Charles Spencer, had left around 1893, and in the interim residents had been reduced to taking the steamer to Auckland to have their portraits taken.  Bartlett's Studio in Queen Street was a regular advertiser in the Times.

T.E. Price's Corner Studio, Harington St/The Strand, Tauranga, c.1905
Image © and courtesy of Tauranga City Libraries Ref. 04-257
Price was an experienced photographer, having been in the business for well over 20 years, operating in Otago and on the West Coast in the heady gold rush days of the mid- to late 1860s, in Timaru in the 1870s, and then in Masterton for seventeen years from 1879.  His showroom opened out onto The Strand, with a wide variety of framed and glazed portraits and landscape views visible through the window and open doorway in this view from c.1905, courtesy of the Tauranga Library Collection.  The studio itself was located behind the main building (to the left, in this image), clearly identifiable by the large, curtained windows and shuttered glass skylights which were designed to allow plenty of lighting control by the photographer.

Tauranga Hotel, Price's Corner Studio and Victoria Wharf, The Strand, Tauranga, c.1905
Image © and courtesy of the Tauranga Heritage Collection
Another copy of this print deposited with the Tauranga Heritage Collection by Price's daughter Elsie Hulse is annotated to show that she was born in the house attached to this studio in 1898.  Despite a flurry of initial work, business appears to have been sporadic, because he temporarily closed the studio several times between 1898 and 1901 while investigating opportunities in Te Aroha, Auckland and Waihi.  However, by the time Price's second daughter Leila was born in 1905, the family appear to have been firmly settled in Tauranga, and Thomas became a very respected member of the community, meriting a lengthy obituary full of praise for his good deeds for the community when he died in February 1928.

Reverse of cabinet card portrait by Thos. E. Price of Tauranga
Image courtesy of the Brain Watkins House Collection
The cabinet portrait, mounted on glossy maroon card with a plain back, has a label from The Medallion Art Company, portrait enlargers and fine art dealers of 67 & 69 Vivian St., Wellington pasted on the reverse, presumably some years later.  This has been filled in with black ink, and gives instructions from Miss B(essie) Brain of Cameron Rd/Elizabeth St, Tauranga ordering a "bust" portrait of "elderly lady and gent" (her parents) to be enlarged from this photograph and mounted in a passe partout frame, at a cost of £2/10/-.

Framed portrait enlargement of Joseph and Kate Brain
Image courtesy of the Brain Watkins House Collection
Also in the Brain Watkins House collection, gifted to the Society by the youngest Brain daughter, Elva, is this framed and glazed portrait enlargement of her parents.  It appears to be that same one originally ordered by Bessie from Wellington.


  1. Hello, Thank you for your interesting blog post. Can you tell me please whether Elsie Hulse deposited any other Price photographs with the Tauranga Heritage Collection other than the one of his studio?

    1. Yes, I believe so, although I can't recall what they were. I suggest you contact the Tauranga Heritage Collection for further information.