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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
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 in 1871.
  • 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
Nelson College fire 1904, FNJ 1/2 115
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 crowds.
  • 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, Dudg 211555/7
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, Tahuna, GCW 3056 fr27
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
Tour Protest 1981, NM 6424 fr17
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 Camp, BS/NPN 3288 fr2
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

Cooper-Sharp Studio: a photographic partnership
Beachcombers Ball, CS 4834 fr1
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 negatives survive.
  • 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, Fl 2402/18
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 girls, 1530/D
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, Bl 4207/13
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 c1880.
  • 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, Br 5380
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 identification possible.
Henry Elis Brusewitz (1855-1922): a small but memorable collection
Bowling, Nelson HBz 2028
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.