About the Photographic Collection
The Nelson Provincial Museum's Photographic Collection is an extensive record of
the region's social history and New Zealand's development spanning the entire period
from the 1860s to the present day, forming a unique and detailed continuous documentation
of the region.
The collection also includes major studio and journalist collections as well as
small collections of professional and amateur photographs, albums and single images,
lantern slides and modern transparencies.
Collections in Brief
Tyree Studio: early promoters of the Nelson image
Huria Matenga, Tyree Studio Collection, 55005/3
- The museum is best known for the Tyree Studio Collection (1882-1947) of approximately
105,000 images of studio portraits, civic occasions and scenic views. This collection
has been in the care of the museum since 1974 and also includes negatives, from other photographers, bought
by the Tyree Studio.
- The Tyree brothers were well-placed to take advantage of new photographic technology
and put it to use taking scenic photographs around the region.
- William and Frederick Tyree came to New Zealand from England with their parents
- The brothers were involved in gold exploration and engineering in Queenstown. They
later moved to Nelson, and in 1878 began a photographic business in Trafalgar Street.
- The Tyrees acted as early advocates for Nelson as a tourist destination and by 1895,
William had expanded the business again to include tourist promotional images. He
left for Sydney and continued to work as an inventor from c1910. Fred established a studio in Golden Bay. He was also a farmer and ran the Collingwood Hotel at various times.
- Although the brothers had established and developed the Tyree Studio, for the majority
of its years it was run by Rosaline (Rose) Margaret Frank (1864-1954) who started
work with them at the age of twenty one. Rose Frank became the central figure in
the Tyree Studio, managing the business for fifty two years, owning it from 1914.
Frederick Nelson (Pompy) Jones (1881-1962): Nelson entertainer and entrepreneur
Burning of Boys College Nelson 1904, F N Jones Collection, 1/2 box 115
- Acknowledged as one of New Zealand's first photojournalists, Jones was nicknamed
Pompy as his father had been.
- In 1904, he sold 1, 500 prints from the three glass plate negatives he took of the
burning of Nelson College. After this, his photography business flourished and he
was able to buy land and start a studio.
- Jones recorded many Nelson events and made a major contribution to the breadth of
the photographic collection, making it unrivalled as a record of a community. He
was often seen on a three-legged ladder used to take photographs from above the
- Photography was just one part of Jones's interesting entrepreneurial activities.
He was also a saddler, an inventor, mechanical musical box collector, amusement
park owner, show organizer and owned several monkeys!
- In 1921, Jones opened Coney Park in Haven Road, with music organs, merry-go-rounds,
miniature train rides and other attractions.
- When Jones retired in 1933, he began to build Pixietown, animated scenes with wooden,
handmade pixies. Pixietown was first shown at Trathen's shop in Trafalgar Street
and others were later staged in Australia, England and America. Pixietowns are remembered
by many as large department store attractions. In the downstairs exhibition in the
museum you can see an example of his workmanship.
- The museum has approximately 5,000 of his images and a further 5,000-8,000 images
are held at the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.
Ellis Dudgeon (1905-1979): prize winner
Waimea West Church, Ellis Dudgeon Collection, 211555/7
- Born in Nelson and educated at Nelson College, Dudgeon became an award winning photographer.
Among many awards he won the prestigious Emerson Medal for the picture of the year
at the 1933 Paris International Salon of Photography.
- His scenic shots were sought -after by editors and his extensive studio portraits
are still treasured in many Nelson homes.
- The advent of colour photography affected the demand for the hand-coloured images
at which Dudgeon's studio was so skilled. However he continued to experiment with
new ideas in his photography.
- Dudgeon was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an Associate of the Royal
Photographic Society of London and was Patron of the Nelson Photographic Society
for many years.
- The collection of 30,000 images covers the period 1930-1970s.
Geoffrey C Wood (1920-1995) a career in camera
Car racing, back beach, Tahuna June 1964, Geoffrey C Wood Collection, 3056 fr27
- Geoffrey C Wood took over Ellis Dudgeon's Studio in 1946. The Geoffrey C Wood Collection
comprises both his studio collection and his collection from the period 1961 to
1978 when he was contract photographer for the Nelson Evening Mail (1961-1978),
now The Nelson Mail.
- This is an historically-important collection of over 650,000 studio, wedding and
outdoor, advertising and business photographs.
The Nelson Mail Collection
Springbok Tour Protest on Church Steps 1981, The Nelson Mail Collection, 6424fr17
- The museum preserves 233,000 images published in The Nelson Mail (formerly The
Nelson Evening Mail) from 1979 to 2000.
Barry Simpson (1926-2014): the news in photos
Tahuna Camping Ground 1965, Barry Simpson, Nelson Photo News Collection, 3288 fr2
- Barry Simpson was the "seven-days a week" editor and a photographer for the Nelson
Photo News from 1960-1970.
- Nelson Photo News was a popular monthly magazine sold door to door and in shops.
It is an extensive photographic record of Nelson events including civic occasions,
sports, weddings and balls. Barry Simpson sold the business in 1970. His collection
of 100,000 images was donated to the museum.
- In 1971, Barry Simpson took up a position as Nelson, Marlborough and Golden Bay
representative of the Christchurch Press, a position he held into the 1980s. His Christchurch Press collection of 10,000
Nelson-area news images was also donated to the museum.
Visit the Nelson Photo News Online at photonews.org.nz/nelson
Cooper-Sharp Studio: a photographic partnership
Beachcombers Ball, Tahunanui, 1967-68, Cooper-Sharp Collection, 4834 fr1
- The Peter Cooper Studio (1958-1987) operated in premises in Trafalgar Street from
1958, later moving to premises behind Radio Nelson. When Peter went into partnership
with John Sharp of Motueka, the business was known as Cooper-Sharp.
- Peter Cooper (1922-2006) and John Sharp (dates unknown) both assisted Barry Simpson
during his time as editor of the Nelson Photo News. Regretfully no known John Sharp
- The first full-scale automatic printing and processing studio and laboratory was
opened by Peter Cooper
- Peter Cooper was elected president of the New Zealand Professional Photographers
Association in 1997
- Approximately 30,000 studio portraits and outdoor images, advertising, business
and wedding photos make up this collection
Alexander Fletcher (1837-1914): The Nelson Photographic Room
Unnamed woman and child, Fletcher Collection, 2402/18
- This collection consists of 750 largely unidentified early photographs by 19th century
Scottish photographer, Alexander Fletcher
- Theodor Bloch took over management of the Hardy Street business known as The Nelson Photographic Room when Fletcher left for England in 1867.
- This collection has some of the earliest of Nelson portraits, taken only twenty
years after the beginning of European settlement in Nelson. Most of the adults in
the images would have been born overseas.
- Unfortunately, when the museum took the collection into its care, no supporting
documentation was received to assist in the identification of these works.
Read more about Alexander Fletcher here
William Henry Davis (1837-1875): pioneer Nelson photographer
Huddleston & Munro, group of four girls, Davis Collection, 1530/1
- English-born Davis started his business in Nelson in 1860; briefly went to Australia
and then came back to Nelson. He had premises in Trafalgar Street and then in Hardy
Street from 1863.
- Davis specialised in studio portraits and developed a significant early portrait
collection of 3,800 images.
Theodor Thorlacius Bloch (1844-1935): soldier and adventurer
Mrs Gully, Bloch Collection, 4207/13
- Bloch, whose name is sometimes spelt Block, was born in Denmark where he was knighted
for his role as a lieutenant in the 1864 war against Prussia and Austria. Bloch
emigrated from Copenhagen to New Zealand in 1867 and fought in the New Zealand Wars.
- He took over the management of Alexander Fletcher's studio in Nelson, The Nelson
Photographic Room, in 1867.
- From 1868 to 1872, in partnership with his future brother-in-law, William Brickell
Gibbs, he operated Gibbs & Bloch in Trafalgar Street, Nelson. He moved to Australia
- The museum has a collection of approximately 2,500 negatives and several hundred
original prints taken by Bloch.
William Edmond Brown (c1840-1922) : carte de visite, promenades, cabinet, Victoria and Imperial
Miss Forsyth, Brown Collection, Promenade Photograph 5380
- Brown moved from Auckland in 1865 to start a business in Trafalgar Street. He later
moved to Hardy Street.
- Brown specialised in studio portraits (around 6,000 of these were taken during 1865-1892),
including the cheap and very popular carte de visite (a photographic calling card).
- He also took scenic and event photographs including The Nelson Provincial Museum's earliest
image of an immigrant ship, the Adamant in 1874, showing fifty immigrants on deck.
- An excellent record keeper and portrait specialist Brown is the only early Nelson
photographer who consistently recorded client and date details, making positive
Henry Elis Brusewitz (1855-1922): a small but memorable collection
Nelson Bowling Green 3 Feb 1902, Brusewitz Collection, 2028
- Swedish-born Brusewitz was naturalised in New Zealand in 1899. He worked in partnership
with his wife, Alice, first in Waimea Street (now Rutherford Street) and then in
Hardy Street from 1904.
- Brusewitz photographed in Nelson from 1889-1912. He also imported photographic materials,
supplied these to amateur photographers and also printed for them. Supplies were
very difficult to obtain at this time.
- Most of his glass-plate negatives were lost when their emulsion was scraped off
and the glass re-used by a picture-framing firm in an adjacent premises.
- The museum has a small but memorable collection of one hundred and sixty glass-plate
images of mostly outdoor scenes and events in Nelson from 1889 to 1912.