Panoramic photo of a house and garden.

Photographic Archive

The Photographic Archive was started in the late 1930s and forms part of the Alexander Turnbull Library collections. Find out how to access images in the Photographic Archive, how to get copies and highlights of the Photographic Archive.

What's the Photographic Archive?

Access to the Photographic Archive

Order copies of images from the Photographic Archive

Highlights of the Photographic Archive

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:

  • prints
  • negatives
  • albums
  • transparencies
  • 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

Triptych of photos from the photographic archive.
L-R: Ambrotype of Thomas Stewart Monkhouse, ca 1850s-1860s, taken by unidentified photographer, Ref: PA10-074│Auckland Harbour Bridge under construction, 1958, taken by Whites Aviation, Ref: WA-48875-G│Panguru relatives of Dame Whina Cooper at the Foreshore and Seabed Hikoi, 2004, taken by Dylan Owen, Ref: PADL-000075.

You can find collection items in the Photographic Archive by using Tiaki, the catalogue for unpublished collections, or through using search on our website.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.


National Library free downloads

National Library website search

Ask a librarian

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.

Register as a researcher and request items

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.

Turnbull Library Pictures

Order copies of images from the Photographic Archive

Panorama of Custom House Square in Dunedin, 1923-1928

Custom House Square in Dunedin, 1923-1928, taken by Robert Percy Moore, Ref: Pan-0093-F

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. 

Making copies

Copyright and privacy

Ask a librarian

Highlights of the Photographic Archive

Triptych of photos from the photographic archive.

L-R: Two unidentified young women, ca 1870s-1880s, taken by W J Harding, Ref: ¼-008029-G│Portrait of an unidentified Māori woman from Hawke’s Bay, between 1870-1880, taken by Samuel Carnell, Ref: ¼-022035-G│ Globe Hotel, Auckland, 1973, taken by Max Oettli, Ref: PADL-000137

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:

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.

Oral History and Sound

Photographs relating to the service of New Zealanders in wars and conflict zones

![Triptych of photos relating to the service of New Zealanders in wars and conflict zones.]
L-R: A New Zealand soldier doing his washing at Chateau Segard during World War I, 1917, taken by Henry Armytage Sanders, Ref: ½-012992-G│Women celebrating Victory in Europe, Wellington, 1945, taken by John Pascoe, Ref: ¼-001508-F│The Hon Mr T L Macdonald addressing the crew of HMNZS Hawea, Korea, 1951, taken by Ian Mackley, Ref: K-0361-F

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:

See the Library’s First World War research guide for more information about locating material relating to that particular conflict.

First World War research guide

Newspaper collections

![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: 

the Evening Post

the Dominion

The Press

Auckland Star negatives, and

Auckland Star albums

The Pacific

Triptych of photos relating to the Pacific.

L-R: Tamasese and his committee outside the Mau office, Samoa, 1929, taken by Alfred James Tattersall, Ref: PA1-o-795-49│Fijian rugby team performing a cibi before Fiji vs NZ Maori rugby game, Wellington, 1957, taken by an Evening Post photographer, EP/1957/3288-F │Tepou Marsters and her adopted daughter weaving pandanus mats, Palmerston Atoll, 1960, taken by John Colles Burland, Ref: PA12-0518-01

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.

Pasifika research guide

Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic Islands

Triptych of photos about Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic Islands.

L-R: The ship ‘Terra Nova’ during the British Antarctic Expedition, 1911, taken by Herbert George Ponting, Ref: PA1-f-067-015-3│Robert Falcon Scott in his den, Antarctica, 1911, taken by Herbert George Ponting, Ref: ½-011384-F│Light-mantled Sooty albatross, Campbell Island, ca 1959, taken by George Poppleton, Ref: PA12-1428-130

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.

Sir Joseph Kinsey's photographs of expeditions

Photographs relating to the arts

Triptych of photos relating to arts.

L-R: Katherine Mansfield at Villa Isola Bella, Menton, 1920, taken by Ida Baker, Ref: ½-011917-F│New Zealand Players touring van, 1954, taken by John Ashton, Ref: JA-465-01-F│Sara Neil performing a jete from Dream Visions, 1959, taken by an unidentified photographer, Ref: PAColl-8050-01-08

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.

John Ashton's collection of photographs

Ngaio Marsh's photographs

Natural and urban environments

Triptych of photos relating to natural and urban environments.
L-R: Log hauling, Northland, 1910s, taken by Northwood brothers, Ref: 1/1-006377-G│Staircase of Government Life building, Rotorua, ca 1962-1965, taken by Duncan Winder, Ref: DW-0342-F│Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe including Chateau Tongariro, 1947, taken by Whites Aviation, Ref: WA-8903-G

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:

See the Library’s Architecture research guide for more information on locating resources on that particular subject.

Architecture research guide


Triptych of images relating to transport.

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.