1920s London

You’ve probably never heard of a photographer called Harry Moult, and there’s no reason why you should. I stumbled on his work by accident while trawling through Te Papa‘s online collection looking for ‘new’ old material. There, in the middle of all that New Zealand imagery, was a sepia-toned photograph of Cannon Street railway station in London.

Canon Street Station

[Railway station and bridge]. From the album: Photograph album – London, 1920s, Te Papa (O.032049)

I learned that the creator of this foreigner was Harry Moult (1878-1946), a Wellington electrical engineer by profession, who took up photography in middle age and quickly revealed a hidden talent. These atmospheric impressions of London were recorded on a business trip to Britain in the late 1920s when the capital was a more polluted, foggy city than it is now.

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 London Pool – a November morn, 1920s, London, Te Papa (O.031862)

The difference in light between smoggy London in winter and his own bright and breezey Wellington would have been the first thing he noticed on arrival and he emphasised this in his prints.

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Winter sunshine, 1920s, London, Te Papa (O.031868). Victoria Embankment with Big Ben silhouetted in the mist.

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One of London’s wet days, 1920s, London, Te Papa (O.031867). Viewed full size, this is an impressionistic image. All movement, and nothing is sharp.

There are many more examples of Moult’s work, at home and abroad, on file at Te Papa. Just follow the link on his name.

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Trouble with Trams 2

RUNAWAY CAR ON THE BROOKLYN LINE.
WILD PLUNGE OVER A BANK.
A PASSENGER KILLED.
FIVE OTHER PERSONS INJURED.

Brooklyn, in this case, is a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand, not New York. The Evening Post report of 4th May 1907 continues….

A “roaring noise”, a rumbling, and finally a tremor of the earth made householders near the tramway line on the Brooklyn heights fear that an earthquake had visited them last evening, at about half-past five. The cause of the disturbance was a large electric car, of the new palace pattern, which left the rails while it was whirling down at terrific speed and plunged over a bank.

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There were only four passengers, including one woman, Mrs. Eliza Bell, wife of Mr. Thomas Bell, a sheep-farmer of Murchison [South Island]. She was crushed under the frame. Her husband and the other passengers were cut and bruised, but were not seriously injured. Mr. Bell was taken on a stretcher to a neighbouring house, and received attention from Dr. Hogg, pending his removal later on to a private hospital. The other passengers dispersed, and were soon lost from view. The motorman, John Rea, and the conductor, Arthur D. Perkins, were dazed by knocks on their heads, and were taken home soon after the accident.

After rounding a curve….[the tram] swept along a straight strip for some distance, and then forsook the metalled way. The outside wheels scoured out a deep groove in the ballast for a dozen yards, and then the rear bogie was left behind. At this moment the car must have been turning on its side, on the slope of a bank, and after skidding about ten yards, the body was jolted from the front bogie, and the whole of the car body was pitched on its side, with the bottom towards the rails. Fragments of the lower woodwork were left along the hillside as the vehicle plunged over the earth.

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A distracted driver, experienced but unfamiliar with that particular route, incorrect settings on a complicated triple braking system, damp rails on a steep incline, all combined to produce this result. It could have been worse. The Brooklyn line had a single track with sidings to allow trams to pass. Unable to stop and back up to the nearest siding, John Rea’s runaway was hurtling towards an “up” tram with forty people on board when it jumped the track. An inquest a week later, when the crew had recovered from their concussion, returned a verdict of accidental death on Eliza Bell.

The photographer here was Joseph “Zak” Zachariah (1867-1965), a man with the instincts of a photojournalist before the word was invented – “Things would happen at eight o’clock in the morning, and “Zak” would have the photographic record of it staring at you from his window before noon.”

Brooklyn Road has been widened and the corners modified but, for those of you who know Wellington, I think this spot is opposite where the Renouf Tennis Centre stands today.

Then and Now – Greytown

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Main street, Greytown, New Zealand, c.1875. The Greytown Hotel at left.

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State Highway 2, Greytown, New Zealand, 2017. The Greytown Hotel at left.

The Greytown Hotel is believed to have been established in 1860, no great age by European standards, but it is rare, if not unique for a New Zealand pub to be still doing business from it’s original premises after 157 years. These old wooden buildings had a tendency to burn down.

Despite alterations and additions, the front of the hotel today is still an obvious match for the one in Bragge’s photo at top.

The Greytown Hotel, North Island, New Zealand, was established in 1860.

The present owner is from Dublin, which explains the flag.

James Bragge (1833-1908) – who has been featured here before and will be again -was a photographer based in Wellington. He was well known for his views of the city and landscapes of the surrounding regions of Wairarapa and Manawatu. His work is easily recognised not only for its quality but for the inclusion of his horse-drawn mobile darkroom in many of the pictures. Foreground interest and advertising at the same time.

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Greytown, by the way, was named for Governor George Grey and not because the town was grey, dull and boring!

A Silent Echo

As time passes by and you look at portraits, the people come back to you like a silent echo. A photograph is a vestige of a face, a face in transit. Photography has something to do with death. It’s a trace.
Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908 – 2004)

A Tale of a Tail

Every “serious” equipment-laden photographer can tell you how he or she started out with the most basic of cameras. It seems even the pioneers had their own version of the box Brownie story.

This [adventure in photography] began on my eighth birthday [1890] when two of my Californian uncles gave me a 4×5 Kodak, which had to be loaded in a darkroom with a roll of film for forty-eight exposures. The shutter was set by pulling out a piece of cat-gut with a round button on the end of it, the release of which produced the exposure. It had only one speed, and that was not very fast. My first picture was of the neighbour’s dog, a friendly little animal who wagged his tail at the moment of exposure so that the result resembled a fan where there should have been a tail, which pleased me greatly.

Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882 – 1966) Photographer. An Autobiography. Ed. Helmut and Alison Gernsheim. Dover Publications Inc., 1978.

Did all of you DSLR owners get that? One shutter speed – and cat-gut!