What's the Photographic Archive?
The Photographic Archive is one of New Zealand’s foremost collections of photographs. It contains around 1,600,000 items from the 1840s to the present, including:
- digital photographs, and
- other photographic formats.
The Photographic Archive continues to grow as a visual record of the land and peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific.
The Photographic Archive holds photographs taken by professional photographers as well as the work of ordinary New Zealanders who have documented their lives, families and communities. The emphasis is on collecting the most original format possible.
Access to the Photographic Archive
You can find collection items in the Photographic Archive by using Tiaki, the catalogue for unpublished collections, or through using search on our website. A number of high-resolution images can be downloaded for free.
Not all items are described individually but each collection has a record. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, use our online 'Ask a librarian' service.
Viewing original items from the Photographic Archive
You can order original items from the Archive to view in the Katherine Mansfield Reading Room at the National Library building in Wellington.
Some items, such as negatives, require one-on-one appointments with one of the Photographs Curators in the Heaphy Room.
Turnbull Library Pictures
Another way to find images in the collection is to search the pictorial files of Turnbull Library Pictures. You can do this in the Library’s General Reading Room at the National Library building in Wellington.
The Turnbull Library Pictures collection comprises photographic copies of original items from the Library’s pictorial collections.
Order copies of images from the Photographic Archive
You can order copies of most items in the Photographic Archive, providing copying doesn’t harm the original and there are no donor or copyright restrictions.
If when you search the website you find a photograph you would like to order use the 'order copy' button on the right-hand side of the image page.
If you have any questions about ordering images use our 'Ask a librarian' service.
Highlights of the Photographic Archive
Photographs from the origins of photography until the present can be found in the Archive, and a wide range of photographic styles and processes are represented. Highlights of the Photographic Archive include prominent New Zealand photographers, New Zealand in wars, newspaper collections, the Pacific, Antartica, photos relating to arts, natural and urban environments, and transport. See below for more information.
Work of prominent New Zealand photographers
The Archive holds the work of many significant New Zealand photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including:
- Leslie Adkin
- Daniel Beere
- Samuel Carnell
- Les Cleveland
- Gladys Goodall
- William James Harding
- Irene Koppel
- James McAllister
- R P Moore
- Max Oettli
- John Pascoe
- Tyree Studio
- Ans Westra
You can find some associated material in the Archive, including photographer’s original negative registers, indexes, and job lists.
See also the Oral History and Sound collection for interviews with a number of photographers including:
- Mark Adams
- Noel Bell
- Les Cleveland
- Gladys Goodall
- George Kay
- Max Oettli
- Clyde Stewart,
- and John Turner.
Photographs relating to the service of New Zealanders in wars and conflict zones
The Archive has rich holdings relating to the theatres of war in which New Zealanders have served, including:
- the New Zealand Wars
- the South African War, and
- the two World Wars.
Some photographs relating to Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan are also held, along with those on subjects such as medical services, rehabilitation and the home front.
You will find both official and personal photograph collections in the Archive. Notable collections include:
- New Zealand official negatives, World War 1914-1918
- War History Branch photographs relating to the two world wars, the occupation of Japan, the Korean War, and Malayan Emergency
- John Pascoe’s photographs of the home front during the Second World War
- Simon Strombom's photographs relating to his military service in Afghanistan
See the Library’s First World War research guide for more information about locating material relating to that particular conflict.
![Triptych of photos from the newspaper collections. ]PA4
L-R: 1931 general election results, The Press building, Christchurch, taken by The Press, Ref: 1/1-008237-G│The Wahine sinking, 1968, taken by an Evening Post staff photographer, EP/1968/1970/33-F│Historian Michael King at Victoria University’s graduation ceremony where he received an honorary doctorate, 1997, taken by Anthony Phelps for The Dominion, Dom/1997/0507/1/22a-F
Events of local and national significance are featured in the Archives’ photographic holdings of:
You will find photographs relating to the Pacific Islands and Pacific Islanders in the Photographic Archive, along with photographs of and taken by New Zealanders active in the Pacific.
The Library’s richest holdings relate to those countries that New Zealand has had a strong historical involvement and where there has been significant New Zealand activity, including Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and the Cook Islands.
See the Library’s Pasifika research guide for more information about searching our holdings.
Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic Islands
Photographs relating to the history of Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic Islands feature in the Archive.
The focus is on photographs that involve New Zealand and New Zealanders, such as expeditions which travelled via New Zealand, and that document land and seascapes. Notable collections include Sir Joseph Kinsey’s photographs of expeditions, including those led by Scott and Shackleton.
Photographs relating to the arts
The Archive has strong holdings relating to the arts, including the photographic collections of:
Other key collections include John Ashton’s collection of photographs taken for organisations such as New Zealand Ballet and New Zealand Players; Ngaio Marsh’s photographs of theatrical productions; and photographs of prominent writers such as Katherine Mansfield.
Natural and urban environments
The Archive has substantial collections relating to New Zealand’s natural and urban environments. These photographs document rural and urban settlements; the human impact on the environment; people interacting with the natural environment, such as tramping, mountaineering and hunting; Māori settlements; and alternative communities. Key collections include:
- Whites Aviation Ltd
- New Zealand Aerial Mapping
- Northwood brothers
- S C Smith
- Tyree Studio
- William Archer Price
- Architectural Centre
- Photographs taken by architect and photographer Duncan Winder
- Wayne Shepherd’s photographs of Wellington buildings
See the Library’s Architecture research guide for more information on locating resources on that particular subject.
L-R: Premises of Dexter and Crozier’s bicycle shop, Auckland, 1902, taken by J H Kinnear, Ref: ½-006166-G│Interior of railway carriage with A P Godber, 1910, Ref: APG-2017-1/2-G│Raurimu Spiral, 1957, taken by Whites Aviation, Ref: WA-42886-F
You will find a number of large collections in the Archive that document modes of transportation including:
Feature image at top of page: Large two-storied house with turret, Lower Hutt, by R P Moore taken between 1923 and 1926. Ref: Pan-0175, Alexander Turnbull Library.