A77_528.jpg Township of New Plymouth (about 1850s). Collection of Puke Ariki (A77.528).

One of the earliest photographs taken of New Plymouth, this ambrotype was gifted to Puke Ariki as part of the Dr Peter Wilson Collection. Likely taken in the late 1850s, it shows the buildings and paddocks of the fledgling colonial town. Marsland Hill barracks looks down in the background with St Mary’s Church resting at the base of the hill.

Being an ambrotype makes this photograph extra special. Ambrotypes are created using a wet-plate collodion (a syrupy solution) process. The ambrotype is its own negative, becoming positive once backed with black. Because they are made from glass, these photographs are very fragile and only a few from New Zealand’s colonial period have survived. This one is a fascinating insight into the first years of European settlement in Taranaki.

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