On Photography - Sports photography in Canterbury

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Wednesday 15 October 2008
Ron Brownson

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Edward Wheeler (active 1877 – 1912)
Trout in New Zealand Rivers, the Upper Selwyn. A good days sport 38 fish with the fly, two rods
circa 1890
gelatin silver print

Wheeler & Son maintained a major photographic studio in central Christchurch from about 1864 until 1912. Edmund Wheeler (1800 – 1877) and his son Edward (active 1877 – 1912) managed the family business. As well as being well-known studio portraitists, they produced many memorable landscape images. I have always thought that their sports photography was memorable as it shows their commitment to pre-planning and to recording significant events in Canterbury's sports calendar.

Edward Wheeler’s photograph of 38 trout dates from the early 1890s and must be one of the earliest angling records of a large catch. The trout are all young, as the species had only been in the Upper Selwyn River for less than two decades. It is likely that the bait used was live cockabully (freshwater Eleotris gobiodes), a major food for introduced trout. Perhaps the photograph marks one of the regular Canterbury Angler’s Associations competition days where the weight of the catch was often commented upon rather than the size of the trout. Apparently, night was a good time to fish in the Selwyn River.

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Edward Wheeler (active 1877 – 1912)
Canterbury Rowing Club on the Avon
circa 1890
gelatin silver print

Photographs of the opening day of the Canterbury Rowing Club’s annual rowing season were relatively common during the period 1890 to 1910, according to photography historian William Main. This image is one of the earliest known images of the annual rowing event and was later issued as a printed postcard. The rowers are all members of the CRC and wear their ‘all whites’ which rowing historian Evan McCalman has kindly informed me are the correct club colours.

The Auckland Art Gallery does not have many sports photographs but this pair by Edward Wheeler are outstanding early examples in this genre of our photographic history.

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