The Henry Winkelmann Collection

Henry Winkelmann was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, England on 26 September 1860, one of eight children. He arrived in New Zealand at Port Chalmers in 1878 aged 19, following in the footsteps of his elder brother Charles, who had immigrated three years earlier.  In 1882, aged 22, after a number of adventures, which included being marooned on Jarvis Island in the Pacific, Henry took up a career with the Bank of New Zealand in Auckland. 

Ten years later, in 1892, Henry bought his first camera. He left the Bank of New Zealand in 1895 and embarked on a career in photography, alongside farming on Great Barrier Island, working in Blenheim and then back in Auckland, as a customs agent on Queen Street wharf. 

Image: Auckland Weekly News. What our artist faces to get good pictures for Weekly News Readers, Henry Winkelmann (left) with camera, 1899. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, AWNS-18990616-6-2.

The earliest Henry Winkelmann image in the Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections is from the NZ Graphic and dates from his time on Great Barrier Island: 'Rosalie Bay', published in December of 1895, for which he won 2nd prize in the NZ Graphic’s photography competition, judged by the luminaries of the day: “Mr Paton, of the Elam School of art; Mr Josiah Martin, of the New Zealand Photographic Journal; and Mr Hanna, the well known Auckland photographer”.  By 1896 both the NZ Graphic and the Auckland Weekly News were publishing Henry Winkelmann photographs.

Image: Henry Winkelmann, New Zealand Graphic. Rosalie Bay — 2nd prize. 1895. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, NZG-18951221-762-2

The earliest images in the Winkelmann glass plate collection at Auckland Libraries, photographs of the beach at Judges Bay, are dated 23 October 1896 (1-W0188 and 1-W0189).

Image: Henry Winkelmann. The beach at Judges Bay, Parnell, 1896. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1-W0188.

The first commercially made telephoto lenses became available in the 1890s, and by 1900 Henry Winkelmann was using one to document the growing city of Auckland. From the summit of maunga, the tops of buildings, chimney stacks and the masts of ships, Henry would expose a series of plates and create joined-up panoramic views. Portions of these would be printed in the newspapers of the day. Published with captions such as 'Marvels of telephotography: effects of a telescopic attachment to an ordinary camera', the images were greeted with astonishment, often published with before-and-after, or rather far-and-near versions.

The first publication of Henry’s panoramas appeared in the Auckland Weekly News of 28 September 1900 in a double page spread: A photographic novelty: telephoto panoramic Auckland city and harbour from Ponsonby

Image: Henry Winkelmann, Auckland Weekly News. A photgraphic novelty: telephoto panoramic Auckland city and harbour from Ponsonby. 1900. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, AWNS-19000928-4-1. 

120 years later, Joseph Brown, a member of the Digital Assets team at Auckland Libraries, has taken the digital files from the original glass plates and stitched them together to realise Henry Winkelmann’s original vision for the images. 

Image: Henry Winkelmann. Freemans Bay and Central Auckland from Ponsonby, 1900. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1-W0206-PAN

The amount of detail that Joseph has been able to extract from the glass plates is remarkable – zoom in and you can see the washing hanging on the line!

Image: Close up of: Freemans Bay and Central Auckland from Ponsonby, 1900. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1-W0206-PAN.

To document the growth of Auckland, Henry replicated his panoramas over the decades. In this series we see the evolution of Remuera and Meadowbank over the course of 22 years, from 1904 to 1927:

Image: Henry Winkelmann. Parnell, Remuera and Hobson Bay from Mount Hobson, 1904, 1912, 1927. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1-W1138-PAN, 1-W1478-PAN, 1-W0827-PAN.

And this, a panorama of the Auckland Zoo from photos taken on 11 February 1925, just two years after its opening in December 1922, and perhaps just as interesting, a view across the farmlands of West Auckland in 1925.

Image: Henry Winkelmann. Auckland Zoo, Western Springs, 1925. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1-W0656-PAN

Not all of the panoramas are landscapes – some are events in the city – this composite, created from two plates, shows Labour Day crowds on both Queen Street and Wellesley Street, the image pivoting around a boy in a raincoat, his back to the action, at the still centre of the scene.

Image: Henry Winkelmann. Labour Day Parade, Queen Street, 1904. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1-W1163-PAN.

In 1928, after a 30-plus career in photography, during which time he won a number of awards, including the grand prix at the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915, Henry sold his glass plate negatives of Auckland to the Old Colonists Museum. The final images in the collection are dated 26 March 1928, views of Three Kings from the summit of Maungawhau / Mount Eden, created not long before Henry offered the collection to the Old Colonists Museum.

Image: Henry Winkelmann. Three Kings from Mount Eden, 1928. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, 1-W0835-PAN.

Henry Winkelmann died three years later, on 5 July 1931, aged 71. In his will he left the remaining photographs and glass-plate negatives to the Auckland Institute and Museum, now the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The Museum collection consists of photographs from around New Zealand and the Pacific, including an extensive collection of images of yachts on the Waitematā Harbour.

In due course the Winkelmann collection at the Old Colonists Museum was transferred to the Auckland Public Library. It is one of the most important collections of photographs in the Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections. 

Some of these panoramas were known to us, however, many have been newly discovered as we migrated the records to Kura Heritage Collections Online. Sadly not all of the glass plates have survived, not all of the images can be created as Henry Winkelmann intended, however, despite that caveat, 149 new Winkelmann images are available digitally for the first time. 

With these new files we have added to our store of knowledge about the history of Auckland and its people, and realise Henry Winkelmann’s original intention for these images.

Author: Tim Barnett, Digital Asset Lead