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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 …