Friday, 2 November 2018

Early Photographic Portraits in Tauranga


 Ottewill’s Kinnear-style & Scovill-style wet-plate camera with 4 lenses
Images courtesy of Rob Niederman

On the 12th December 1862 John and Celia Kinder arrived in Tauranga on the ship Julia, for a summer holiday visit with her father Archdeacon Brown and his second wife Christina. Along with their clothing and other daily necessities required for a such a stay of five or six weeks, most likely carried in a steamer trunk, John also brought his photographic equipment. Although he is thought to have gained his skills at wet-plate collodion photography around 1861, early views were taken with a twin-lens stereo camera, and it is likely that he purchased a larger format, full-plate camera similar to those shown in the images above, capable of taking photographs on 8½” × 6½” glass plates, in 1862.

 Camera, tripod, plate holders, glass plates, portable dark room and chemicals, similar to those probably used by Kinder in 1862-1864 (from Cameras, from Daguerreotypes to Instant Pictures, Brian Coe, 1978)

Over the course of the next two weeks Kinder took a series of at least twelve photographs around the Te Papa peninsula, some in the vicinity of the mission house and chapel, others a little further afield at the Mission Cemetery, Taumatakahawai Pa and Otumoetai. Given that the photographic plates needed to be exposed in the camera immediately after their preparation, and then developed soon after their exposure, he would have needed some kind of portable dark room or tent, as shown above.

Maori girls (Bakehouse), Te Papa, Tauranga, December 1862
Albumen print on white card, Image courtesy of the Hocken Collection Ref. P1922-001-017

His photograph of a group of eight children arranged in front of the bakehouse is a highly competent image from both technical and compositional stand points, particularly for an amateur who was a relative newcomer to these difficult techniques. It also has the distinction of being probably the first photograph taken to include human figures, Maori or Pakeha, in the coastal Bay of Plenty, and is therefore probably as important to Tauranga’s history as the Barrett Sisters daguerreotype (attributed to Lawson Insley, circa 1853) is to that of New Plymouth and Taranaki.

 (Left) Tarapipipi te Waharoa (Wiremu Tamehana), (Right) Rapana and unidentified young man
Te Papa, Tauranga, January 1863
Albumen prints on white card, Images courtesy of The Elms Collection

Between New Year’s Eve and 7th January, Kinder accompanied Archdeacon Brown on a trip over the Kaimais to Patetere in the Waikato (near present day Putaruru and Tirau). For whatever reason – perhaps they went on foot, and the glass plates were heavy – he appears not to have taken his photographic equipment, although he did produce a watercolour painting of Te Wairere (Falls) on their way back. Over the next couple of weeks he returned to his photographic pursuits but on a very different tack. Kinder replaced the single landscape view lens on his camera with a lens board containing four portrait lenses. This arrangement allowed him to produce four separate, smaller images on a single plate, by exposing through each lens successively. At least sixteen such carte de visite format portraits have survived, suggesting that he exposed at least four full-sized plates in this fashion. The first portrait shows Tarapipipi te Waharoa (Wiremu Tamehana) standing in front of Brown’s library, while the second shows Rapana (Laban) and a friend standing in front of Volkner’s cottage, also in the Mission Station grounds. Tarapipipi most likely accompanied Kinder and Brown back from the Waikato, and the two young men acted as guides.

(Left) Hoko Hoko Tutahi (Right) Unidentified young woman, Te Papa, Tauranga, January 1863
Albumen prints on white card, Images courtesy of The Elms Collection

This half-length carte de visite-style portrait shows an older Maori man seated in a chair on the porch of Volkner’s cottage. He is bearded, wears a korowai covering a light-coloured shirt, and holds a book in his right hand. The subject of the portrait is probably Te Tūtahi (Hokohoko Tutahi) (c1810-after 1864), chief of the Maungatapu section of the Ng¬āti Hē hapū (Ngāi Te Rangi) who had signed the Tauranga Treaty of Waitangi sheet in 1840. He was the father of Taiaho Hōri Ngātai (c1832-1912), veteran of Gate Pa and Te Ranga, who later gave accounts of the Battle of Gate Pa to historians James Cowan (1901) and Gilbert Mair (1903). Hokohoko spoke at the peace negotiations following the battles (Te Raupatu o Tauranga Moana). Gifford & Williams (1940) include Hokohoko as one of the “Maori converts.” The young woman seated in the same location is as yet unidentified.
Perhaps originally intended to fill the slots in a family photograph album - cartes de visite of family, friends and the famous became something of a fad in the 1860s – these images, being the first taken of tangata whenua in Tauranga, now form part of an important regional treasure.

This forms part of an ongoing study on Kinder’s photography in the Bay of Plenty. Grateful acknowledgement to Rob Niederman, The Elms, The Tauranga Heritage Collection and the Hocken Library for the opportunity to study items in their collections, and for permission to use these images.

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