An early Te Aroha photographer

A photo negative.

The Te Aroha Museum was alerted to a ‘Trade Me’ listing of a large quantity of glass photographic plates which had been taken by one of Te Aroha’s bricklayers in the 1920’s. His name was Alfred Norris Holmes and the Museum knew of him.

The opportunity to acquire these glass plates was successful and on picking them up, we discovered there were over 400 of them.

The probability of there being unpublished images of Te Aroha was soon revealed to be true; there were also many genealogical images of Mr Holmes’ eight children as they grew up.

It was a simple process to convert the negative images on the glass plates to a positive digital image which could then be enhanced to reveal details of Te Aroha over a period of 25 years from 1915 when Alf and the family arrived from Invercargill.

Alf and two of his sons were bricklaying in Te Aroha up to the 1960’s. A grandson of Alf’s was Morrie Holmes, a gifted drummer in the ‘Satellites Band’ of the 1960–70’s. His father was well known around town as ‘Ockie’.

A stereoscope viewer.

Many of the glass plates were of the stereoscopic type with two identical images with the positive print on a card being viewed through a hand held stereoscope to give a three dimensional view.

Alf Holmes would have developed and printed many of his favourite images to be viewed by interested people. He put his name and ‘copyright’ on each

The image of the boy sitting on the steps of the ‘Kiosk’ in the Te Aroha Domain shows in the foreground the playing lawns plus the Grand Hotel, Picture Theatre, Billiard Saloon and other shops on Whitaker Street.

Converting this negative to a digital positive and using enhancing programs on the computer, the background can be studied in great detail when magnified.

The final image looking out over Te Aroha.

Many of the images overlooking the town from the slopes of Mt Te Aroha can be dated by the knowledge of when certain buildings were built, if they are, or are not, in the image then the date can be ascertained within a year or so.

The Museum has a display of 16 images from the Holmes’ collection with related stories involving his children. There is also a 33-page research document on the family in the Museum Archives.

-By Geoff Clark for the Te Aroha Museum.


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