Lissa Mitchell, Curator of Historical Documentary Photography at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, explores the work of three photographers creating autochromes in early 20th-century New Zealand.
“Cleopatra” in Domain Cricket Ground, 1914, Auckland, by Robert Walrond. Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (A.018196).
Announcements of the Lumiére brothers’ autochrome process were reported widely in New Zealand newspapers during late 1907 and early 1908. The process was described as a dream come true for photographers longing to discover a way of making photographs in a process that was able to represent natural colours.
However, while the process was eagerly anticipated and widely discussed it has remained a minor footnote in histories of photography related to New Zealand.
Like the earlier daguerreotype and ambrotype, autochromes are unique, one off photographs which produce an image directly onto a glass plate rather than a negative, an aspect which no doubt appealed to amateur photographers with artistic aspirations.
Autumn, 1915, Auckland, by Robert Walrond. Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa (A.018208).
In early 1908, Wellington photographer Elizabeth Greenwood gave a reporter from the Dominion newspaper a first-hand demonstration of the process.
Greenwood exposed two plates – one a portrait of a group of girls and the other a still life – giving the reporter the chance to compare the resulting plates with the real subjects in the studio.
The portrait plate was exposed for 30 seconds with the only favourable result being the brilliant reproduction of a blue dress worn by one of the subjects.
Meanwhile Greenwood exposed the second plate of a still life scene for three and half minutes resulting in a plate the reporter described as more brilliant than the actual scene – rich in colour and detail including in the shadows.
However, it wasn’t long before the inadequacies of the autochrome process for widespread commercial use was raised. In May 1908, in response to rumours in Auckland, the city’s Star newspaper printed an advertisement in which a monetary reward was offered to the person able to produce a colour print on paper using a process that could be of commercial value.
According to the advertiser someone in the city was claiming to have done ‘what the cleverest scientific men in Europe have so far failed to do, that is, to produce Photographic Prints in Natural Colours.’
The advertiser, G. F. Jenkinson, stressed he was not interested in ‘an autochrome transparency upon glass, which are now fairly common and of no value except as lantern slides.
From the top of Shortland Street, 1913, Auckland, by Robert Walrond. Purchased 1999 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa(A.018201).
Image Credit: Photograph by Nigel Moyes · · From Snapped: Your Top 3 in 2014
Travelled to New Zealand in the deep south mid winter and shot this dawn image of the famous Lone Tree – it was very chilly around minus 2 and I was lucky that the birds were staying nice and still on the tree for the shot.
Image Credit: Photograph by Jules Drayton, (United Kingdom).
Mount Ngauruhoe is an active volcano, made up from layers of lava and tephra, she rises to 2291m.
It is the youngest vent in the Tongariro National Park and first erupted about 2,500 years ago.
Although seen by most as a volcano in its own right, it is technically a secondary cone of Mount Tongariro.
The volcano lies between the active volcanoes of Mount Tongariro to the north and Mount Ruapehu to the south, to the west of the Rangipo Desert and 25 kilometres to the south of the southern shore of Lake Taupo.
By venturing into the 30-million-year-old limestone caves on New Zealand’s North Island, photographer Joseph Michael was able to capture magical images of the glowworms that call this place home.
Against the natural backdrop that the cave provides, it looks as though there are hundreds of miniature, blue-tinted stars, but this is actually the work of glowworms known as Arachnocampa luminosa.
Using a long-exposure method, the photographer was able to capture the glowworm larvae and their enchanting light in a way that makes the limestone formation look as though it’s an indoor, starry sky.
In the close-up photos, you may notice that something is hanging from the bioluminescent gnat larva.
These are the twinkling larvae’s nests, which are composed of up to 70 silk threads that contain droplets of mucus.
In order to attract prey into these threads, the larvae glow bright, but not all continue to do so once they become adults. Male glowworms will stop glowing a few days after emerging from the nest, while the females’ glow will increase in order to attract a mate.
With this in mind, it seems that the photographer caught the glowworms at the perfect time for his Luminosity series.