Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Halma's Studio of Ashburton

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This studio portrait of a rather severe-looking middle-aged woman by Halma's Studio of Ashburton is slightly larger than a cabinet card, measuring 133 x 184 mm. The photograph, measuring 102 x 140mm, and therefore much the same as the photo on most cabinet cards, is mounted on thick (about 1.2 mm) white card with square corners, bevelled edges and an embossed, patterned surface and frame around the photo mat. The studio name and location is printed diagonally in dark brown ink near the lower right corner.

This is one of many new formats introduced around the turn of the century to compete with the cabinet card, and to provide a higher quality, more durable and more expensive alternative to the post card, which also became popular in the early 1900s. This particular example has been accurately dated, with the inscription, "March 1906," handwritten in dark brown ink on the reverse. Unfortunately, the subject is not identified.

The Auckland City Library's Photographers Database states that the firm of Halma & Co. operated a studio in Ashbourne from at least 1902 until 1925, with the premises being located on East Street for at least part of that time (1911-1925). Hardwick Knight (in New Zealand Photographers. A Selection, publ. 1981 by Allied Press) lists an H. Alma & Co. as being in Ashburton around 1890, but it's not clear whether this was a mistake, an alternative spelling of the same firm, or a different outfit altogether.

The Presbyterian Archives lists two group portraits, one of St Andrews Senior YMBC and the other of the members of Ashburton Presbytery, both taken c. 1928, by "Halma" of Ashburton.

Te Papa's Online Database lists three photographs, one of a pair of folding scissors, one of a wedding party and the last of a man by "Halma & Co." of Ashburton, taken some time in the 1920s.

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