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Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

BooksJune 27, 2023

The lost School of Photography

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

An introduction to and excerpt from Through Shaded Glass, Lissa Mitchell’s gargantuan effort to reveal and honour the many, many women in Aotearoa’s history of photography.

Through Shaded Glass evolved from many years of researching photographs made by Pākehā men during the 19th and early 20th centuries. I became curious about who else had also used photography during this time and what they did with it. Basic questions really: was there really only a handful of women involved in photography? And why are their legacies largely overlooked?

I also wanted to know about Māori who took photographs, and disrupt the notion that Māori only appeared in photographs. It also seemed that finding out what was exceptional about our photographic history here in Aotearoa compared with everyone else was to understand more about the women who made photographs here – what aided and limited them. What kind of society made these photographers?

Locating information about women during this era is a challenge as they were not part of many official records. Often unless something exceptional or tragic happened to them, it’s hard to find out more about them. Also, the majority of photographs were not made as artworks so assessing them as such is unrealistic. The collecting of photography by public institutions and the writing about it has also been selective around similar biases. For example, the archive of a photographer, or studio, is often regarded as important simply because it is large, and smaller holdings are dismissed. It is also important to acknowledge when cultural artefacts are the work of multiple makers (though only one person’s name or brand appears on it) that manual labour was used to produce the photograph, even if we don’t know who those makers were.

As research continued, however, the list of names kept growing to well over 400 – and it continues to grow. The work of giving back from this research will continue beyond the publication of the book and I am seeking to update and share the details of the makers I have found. 

In the 1890s, several Māori women are known to have worked in photography. The discovery of early Māori photographers undermines assumptions that Māori became involved with photography only as the subjects of ethnographic imagery. 

Katarina Hansard (née Īhāia, Ngāpuhi), c.1860–1906 – G. A. Hansard Studio, Kaikohe

Katarina Hansard (née Īhāia, Ngāpuhi) was the daughter of Reverend Īhāia Te Ahu and his wife Katarina Hāpimana (also known as Catherine Chapman). The younger Katarina married George Hansard and the couple had a daughter, Aneta. George was reported as “our local photographer” in the Awanui region, north of Kaitāia, in 1892, but by September that year the family had relocated to the booming township of Kaikohe and had built a “handsome little edifice” on the main street as their photographic studio.

Although the studio was in George Hansard’s name, he was busy working as a Native Land Court agent, interpreter and hotelier and the studio was run by Katarina, assisted by Aneta. What is known of Katarina’s work is recorded in the 1897 Auckland volume of The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, which featured a portrait of her and which also published a series of views she took of Northland. 

In 1899, the Hansards relocated to Kawakawa, where George bought the Star Hotel. The photographic studio operated from a building in the main street. Less than a year later, George disposed of his interest in the hotel and in June 1900 he was on trial in the Supreme Court in Auckland for perjury. Hansard was found not guilty but the family moved south.

Portrait of Katarina Hansard by an unknown photographer. Published in the Auckland County Districts (Section 3) Free Part of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897–1900. Photomechanical half-tone prints. Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira (AE91-CYC-p58-2).

In early December 1900, they were in Christchurch looking for a house to rent, and by Christmas they were advertising as “Hansard and Co.” photographers, and running the Zealandia Studio in Gloucester Street. Only four months later, Hansard & Co. was operating the American Studio at 210 High Street, proclaimed to be the “finest studio in the colony”.

Two months later, they had relocated to Dunedin and could take portraits “by flashlight every evening” in their Zealandia Studio in the Royal Arcade (known as Fleet Street, situated between High and MacLaggan streets). The business was still there when Aneta, “of the Royal Arcade Photographic Studio”, injured her ankle when she collided with a hansom cab while riding her bicycle in Princes Street. 

Mill Bay, Whangaroa and Carved Maori House, Kaikoke. Katarina Hansard, Kaikohe, date unknown. Published in the Auckland County Districts (Section 3) Free Part of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1897–1900. Photomechanical half-tone prints. Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira (AE91-CYC-p53-3, AE91- CYC-p53-4).

From July 1902, advertisements appeared together in Dunedin newspapers offering private tuition at 35 Princes Street in both te reo Māori by GA Hansard and lessons in photography at the “School of Photography”, which promised to teach all aspects of the medium; retouching was a specialty. One advertisement linked two of the Hansard businesses: “photographs taken by Hansard and Co., Arcade, will be delivered from School of Photography, Princes Street”.

It is not clear how the workload was shared within the family, but the photography school and the studio were possibly mainly Katarina’s and Aneta’s enterprises. The final advertisement for photography classes appeared in September 1902. Katarina died on 18 November 1906 after suffering from tuberculosis for two years. 

Little girl with doll, 1893–98. Katarina Hansard for GA Hansard Studio, Kaikohe. Gelatin silver cabinet card print. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections (1192-46).

Through Shaded Glass: Women and Photography in Aotearoa New Zealand 18601960 (Te Papa Press, $70) can be purchased at Unity Books Wellington and Auckland.

Keep going!