A77_528a.jpg Township of New Plymouth (about 1855-1860). Collection of Puke Ariki (A77.528).

Possibly the earliest photograph taken of New Plymouth, this ambrotype shows Marsland Hill barracks from Mount Eliot in the top right of the image and St Mary's Anglican Church at the base of the hill beneath. A fence cuts across the foreground and two cows look on passively from a hillock on the left. If you look very closely, you can see two figures on the dirt road as it dips into the valley.

Ambrotypes superseded daguerreotypes as the most popular form of photography from 1854. A wet collodion process, ambrotypes are negatives that appear positive when backed with a black surface. It takes approximately 45 seconds to expose an ambrotype. Though this sounds like a long time, it wasn't a patch on the 15 minutes it could take for a daguerreotype to immortalise its subject. Ambrotypes are unique, one-off objects, adding a sense of value to the object that many photographs do not have. 

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