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Clifton Firth's portraiture

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Clifton Firth had a photographic studio in Queen Street, Auckland, from the end of the 1930s to the 1970s. His studio was a stamping ground for people interested in art, literature and politics and his portraits reflect this social group. Janis Fairburn notes, in her chapter on Clifton Firth in the book 'Fairburn and friends', that the heyday of Firth's studio was during the turbulent years of World War II when Auckland was "a small but lively intellectual melting pot."

Fairburn goes on to state "the studio was unique in doubling as an Auckland mecca of photography and a den of discussion for radical thinkers."

Over time Firth photographed many well-known New Zealand writers, artists, dancers, musicians, academics, historians, lawyers, politicians and architects.


Firth's portraits are recognisable for their dramatic use of light and shadow. Stylistically they are similar to Hollywood black-and-white still photography. There is an intensity, glamour …

The hundred-year-old Papatoetoe Town Hall (part 1)

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On 27 February 2018 Papatoetoe will celebrate the centenary of one of its most iconic buildings, the Papatoetoe Town Hall. A centenary dinner will be held in the hall and stories and photographs from residents and community groups who have used the building over the years will be on display (contact jennya.clark@xtra.co.nz for details). This is the first part of a history of the hall we will be publishing before the centenary celebrations.

In 1916, when plans for the hall were formed, Papatoetoe was a growing and prosperous suburban community offering both the advantages of country living and a ready link to Auckland by the railway line. Its population had more than doubled from 386 to 785 people over the previous three years. Its leading residents decided it was time the town had the facilities to match its size, including a public hall.

Summer in the West: Jack Diamond’s photographic record (part 1)

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Following the news that the J. T. Diamond Collection has been inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World documentary heritage register, we thought that a photographic blog series featuring some of the great images from the collection would be appropriate.

The J.T. Diamond Collection comprises John (Jack) Thomas Diamond’s meticulous research and documentation of West Auckland’s history compiled over 60 years. The collection documents many local industries and locations that have disappeared or altered significantly and includes detailed and unique archival records of the first two generations of colonial settlement in New Zealand.

The collection is made up of manuscript material, photographs, plans and site records including Diamond’s notebooks which detail his photographic record of the West. These photographs continue to be used in publications and are widely referenced by local and regional government authorities, historians and national heritage organisations.

The UNESCO recogni…

A year in the life of the New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal

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The values expressed by the political cartoons in The New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal give us clues about the attitude of its publisher to the policies of the Liberal Government. The publisher’s attitude generally set expectations about the style and tone of both journalistic and cartoon content in their papers. The Graphic was published by Henry Brett, who also published the New Zealand Farmer and the Auckland Star. In those days both papers reflected conservative tendencies.  So it is therefore not surprising that the Graphic’s cartoons reflect similar right-wing concerns about the socialist taint of the Liberal Government.

The first cartoon we’re looking at was published on 21 January 1893 and was captioned ‘When a Little Farm we keep.’ Liberal land policy was to break up large estates so that they could relocate the urban unemployed on small farms. Simple, huh? Like killing two birds with one stone? So in the cartoon’s background a Liberal cowboy lassoes a hapless member of…

Scots wha hae!

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This coming Saturday, 13 January 2018, come celebrate Scottish culture at Waitākere Central Library at our biannual event, Scots Wha Hae!

Robert Burns’ rousing song Scots Wha Hae, written in 1793, is a call for Scots to stand up for their nation.  It is written in the form of a speech by the Scots’ King, Robert the Bruce, before leading his troops to victory against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Scottish people have embraced Burns (1759-1796) as their national poet, because his songs and poems represent enduring Scottish values: ones that are celebrated internationally.
An exhibition at New Zealand’s Te Papa Museum stated that enduring Scottish values are those of
 “…education and equal opportunity for all, and a sense of personal and social responsibility”.

In the 19th century, Scots in New Zealand often celebrated Burn’s birthday on 25 January.
The reasons for leaving Scotland have differed over time, with many initially leaving their home country in the century …

What did Aucklanders use for power before candles? Electricity.

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Twenty years ago this summer, New Zealand sweltered in an El Nino weather pattern that produced some of the hottest temperatures on record. In the north, cities were hot and humid, and in the south, drought was declared. At Huntly, the power station hovered dangerously close to shutting down as hot weather warmed the Waikato River to 24 degrees. At 25, it was deemed too dangerous to discharge water back into the Waikato.


And in the Auckland CBD, in that scorching February of 1998, the power went out.

The Mercury Energy Crisis began on 22 January when the first of two cables feeding power from Penrose to the city, failed. Two weeks later, on 9 February, the second Penrose cable failed, and Aucklanders faced a reported three weeks of power rationing.  Generation sources were investigated, businesses and residents urged to conserve electricity, and Mercury rushed to work on an emergency overhead cable.  Mayor Les Mills called for power rationing amidst the soaring use of fans and air con…