Author(s): Michael Fitzgerald & Claire Regnault
A powerful book of portraits, offering an extraordinary, evocative snapshot of New Zealanders facing the First World War. Berry & Co was a Wellington photographic studio in the early twentieth century. In the 1990s, a tenant of 147 Cuba Street, Wellington, discovered around 3,000 glass plate negatives in a cupboard. This transpired to be the remarkable Berry & Co Collection, now held by Te Papa. Amongst the studio portraits in the collection are around 130 showing servicemen in uniforms, sometimes posing with families and friends. Many of these would have been taken before the men left to fight, or while on leave from the European theatres of war. Together, they offer a potent snapshot of the New Zealand of the time - and the changing face of the war itself. The beautifully reproduced portraits are accompanied by the carefully researched stories of the soldiers and their loved ones. Many of these stories have only recently come to light, with the help of public interest and information from descendants. Though these soldiers represent only a tiny fraction of the thousands of men who departed to join the fighting overseas, through their poignant stories we are granted a remarkable lens on New Zealanders' experiences of anxiety, hope, fear, pride and love over the span of the First World War. Publication of the book coincides with the broadcast of a brand new TVNZ documentary that tells the remarkable stories of several soldiers from the Berry & Co portraits.
Michael Fitzgerald is Curator Colonial New Zealand at Te Papa, and has a particular interest in New Zealanders' wartime experiences and an in-depth knowledge of related collections at Te Papa. He is working on a range of public programmes to mark the centenary of the First World War, including ongoing research into the life stories of soldiers and their families whose portraits were taken at the Berry & Co studio in Wellington. Claire Regnault is Senior Curator History (Creative Industries) at Te Papa, and has a broad curatorial practice. She is a co-author of The Dress Circle: New Zealand Fashion Design Since 1940 (Random House, 2010), which was a finalist in the NZ Post Book Awards, author of The New Zealand Gown of the Year (HBCT, 2003), and has contributed essays to a number of publications including Black: History of Black in Fashion, Society and Culture in New Zealand (Penguin, 2012), Micromosaic: Antarctic Landscapes (Artist's publication, 2012) and the forthcoming Otago University Press pubication The Lives of Objects.