Photography's Auckland

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Monday 9 February 2015
Ron Brownson

Auckland celebrated its 175th anniversary two weeks ago. There was a true party feeling downtown. Tomorrow we mark 175 years since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The Auckland anniversary festivities included a street display of huge blow-ups from historical negatives held in the Auckland Libraries collection. It was the biggest display of large Auckland photographs that I have seen.

Curated by Mike Mizrahi as part of the 175th event, there was a sequence of about 20 huge blow-ups displayed along Quay Street. They attracted thousands of people during their 72 hour display. Few people would have seen as many local photographs dating from 1860 to 1960.

These mammoth photos were irresistible. Many of the images were used as backdrops for selfies. The murals became a montage of attractions simply because they share history as images. The large labels were informative yet they did ignore the names of the camera artists who had created these images.

There's a lesson to be learnt there – don't forget to credit artists' names.

This exhibition proves that the public are fascinated with photographs of where they live, especially if they are of such a huge scale that one can scan them for detailed information.

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I didn't know before seeing the above details that men’s trousers in the summer of 1860 were sometimes made with double-seamed linen in an unbleached coarse-weave or constructed from raw cotton woven as a mid-weight duck canvas. Or that caps were frequent head day-wear.

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I liked the way Mike chose the sites for the enlarged photos. The above image related closely to where the photo was sited. It showed the central city recruiting station during World War 1. Volunteers visited daily and the names of the successful applicant to New Zealand's army were named in the next day's newspapers. The Auckland suburbs that they lived in were also named.

In the profile that the New Zealand Herald produced about Inside Out Company's work for the Auckland anniversary Mike said "The selfie generation will really love this as it's a perfect backdrop for seemingly blending into history and somehow becoming part of it."