I started writing this post a while ago, after viewing a range of “old” photographs at The Elms | Te Papa here in Tauranga, a historic house and grounds, where I volunteered. My interest in these photos sent my curiosity down a rabbit warren of information concerning people who made an impact on photography in New Zealand/Aotearoa.
Let me introduce you to one woman photographer that brought alive people and their environment via her camera.
Many early New Zealand photographers were known to have made part of their income from selling portraits of Māori. Elizabeth Pulman, possibly our first woman photographer, was one of them.
As with many people living in New Zealand in the early 1800’s, Elizabeth was born in England, she travelled to New Zealand with her husband George Pulman whose trade was being a draftsman. During 1861 he opened a photographic studio in Auckland. After her husband’s death in 1871, Pulman took on her husband’s studio and in the process became New Zealand’s first female professional photographer. She ran Pulman’s Photographic Studio for almost 30 years, for a time along with her son, Frederick. Some of her most famous photographic works include portraits of Chief Paul Paora Tuhaere, King Tawhiao and Tawhia’s daughter and second wife. If being a businesswoman, and, photographer wasn’t enough she also raised nine children.
Elizabeth and George Pulman’s main body of work were portraits, mainly Maori, and scenic shots. The detail in the following images are incredible and now, they are all viewed as highly historic works with some remaining in museums and in public libraries around New Zealand.
An Example of Elizabeth Pulman’s Photography – NZ Archives
Heta Te Haara was a prominent rangatira of Kaikohe and Waimate in Northland. He was the chairman of the Ngāpuhi Kotahitanga movement formed in Kaikohe in 15 April 1891 for the purpose of unifying Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Whatua and Te Aupouri. He died on 8 April 1894. Te Haara was influential in having the British remains of those killed at the Battle of Ōhaeawai (18445) exhumed and reintered in the grounds of St Michael’s Church, built on the site of the conflict. The Governor of the day, Sir George Bowen, asked ‘if there be a more touching episode in the annals of the warfare of even civilized nations in either ancient or modern times’.
To view more of Elizabeth Pulman’s photography, click on the following link; https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22377018