As part of the latest season of art in Ngā | Toi Arts Te Papa, there is a wonderful exhibition of rare and fascinating photographs – New Zealand Photography Collected. Recently the Friends of Te Papa enjoyed an interesting and informative hour with Athol McCredie, Curator of Photography at Te Papa, when he took us around the exhibition and discussed some of his favourite images and why they were selected for the exhibition. Given that Te Papa’s photographic collection is over 320,000 items, the task of selecting images for display was huge. The images were chosen for their depth, richness and resonance, and stand repeated and prolonged viewings.

Athol’s tour of the exhibition included a selection of the many sections that form the exhibition; studio portraits, museum and science photography, places and events, social documentary, and contemporary work. The discussion considered the aim of the photographer and what the photograph might portray. The photo was not always as it seemed at first glance. Athol’s tour encouraged us to look beyond the ‘first glance’ and see the image with ‘new eyes’ and new meaning.

The exhibition itself presents more than 300 rare and fascinating photographs from Te Papa’s storerooms and include 19th-century portraits to family portraits and wedding photographs, dramatic landscapes to modern photography, black and white, sepia, coloured photographs, all are grouped in various categories, style or genre. This is an exhibition that challenges you to look into and beyond what you see.

The exhibition is accompanied by the Te Papa Press publication – New Zealand Photography Collected, written by Athol McCredie. All the photographs in the exhibition appear in this book, accompanied by Athol’s most interesting narrative. The history of photography in New Zealand from the 1850’s to the present day gives us yet another way of looking at the history of our country.