Monday, 4 August 2008

Two studio portraits from Christchurch, South Island

I have included two cartes de visite from separate studios in this post because I bought them in the same "lot," and I believe it likely that they are of the same unidentified couple, taken just a few years apart. They were both taken in Christchurch, on the east coast of the South Island, probably in the mid- to late 1860s or very early 1870s.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett Payne

The first is a full length portrait of a bearded man and his wife taken at the studio of Easter & Wallis, The City Photographic Rooms, on Colombo Street. Woodward (1987) states that the firm of Easter & Wallis operated at this address from 1867 to 1879, while Knight gives only 1872 to 1878. Theophilus Easter later traded as Easter & Co at 224 Cashel Street West, Christchurch in 1884 and 1885, and then under his own name in Sydenham in 1886. Main (1977) shows that a W.S. Wallis was working as a photographer, watchmaker and jeweller in Shortland Street, Auckland Central in August 1857, but it is not clear if this is the same person who was in partnership with Easter.

New Zealand Yesteryears has reproduced a photograph by Theophilus Easter, dated c. 1886, from the Alexander Turnbull Library, showing the ship Ruapehu in dry dock at Lyttelton.

The Christchurch City Libraries web site also has a photo attributed to T. Easter, of shipping berthed in the Port of Lyttelton, taken from The Weekly Press dated 20 Dec 1894. This suggests that Easter may have been in business for considerably longer than as suggested by other authors.

The style of the portrait is a simple one which could have been taken at any time during the 1860s or early 1870s. However, I think the woman's clothing and hairstyle are most typical of the period 1867 to 1870. The reverse of the card mount has a coat of arms and text in seven different fonts, also typical of the late 1860s and early 1870s.

Image © and collection of Brett PayneImage © and collection of Brett Payne

The second portrait is very similar in both style and subject, with one important difference; in addition to the man and his wife, there is a young child, perhaps about two years old, seated on the man's knee. I can't be sure it is the same couple, of course, but they look very similar. Her hair style is more appropriate for the early 1870s, with a marked centre parting and drawn back into a bun at the back of the head. She is wearing a dress which has more layers, frills and pleats, typical of the period 1869 to 1874.

It was taken by William Sherlock of Oxford Terrace in Christchurch. Auckland City Library's Photographer Database states that Sherlock was born in London in 1846, learnt photography from his father in Devon, and arrived in New Zealand on board the Zealandia in 1872. He operated a studio at Oxford Terrace in Christchurch from c. 1872 until at least 1888. By 1894, however, he had moved to Reefton, where he remained until at least 1912. There is also mention of him working in Paeroa (North Island) in 1904.

The design on the back of the cdv card mount is an interesting one, obviously designed locally along the lines of other designs of the time, and printed by "J.T. Smith & Co. of Ch.Ch."


Knight, Hardwicke (1981) New Zealand Photographers. A Selection, Allied Press.

Main, William (1977) Auckland. Through a Victorian Lens, Millwood, ISBN 0908582056, in Auckland City Libraries Photographers Database.

Woodward, Joan, (1987) A Canterbury Album: Collodion Photography in Canterbury, 1857-1880, Te Waihora Press, ISBN 0908714025 & 9780908714025, in Auckland City Libraries Photographers Database.

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