Loading

Maori woman, Rotorua, New Zealand

Arthur James Iles, James Iles1900 - 1920

Museums Victoria

Museums Victoria
Carlton, Australia

This photograph depicts an unidentified Maori woman of unknown tribal affiliation. It was taken by the New Zealand photographer Arthur James Iles in Rotorua in the early 20th century. It is one of a series of twenty studio portraits of Maori taken by Iles in Museum Victoria's collections. A professional photographer active during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Iles photographed a range of subjects including people, landscapes, historical and tourist sites as well as indigenous flora and fauna. Iles's specialisation was portraiture, particularly of the Maori population. Maori life had been a common subject among photographers since the mid 19th century. Popular with the non-indigenous population, several categories of Maori pictures dominated the market. These included nostalgic depictions of 'beauties' and 'noble warriors' and the re-enactment of pre-contact life. The emergence of postcards around the beginning of the 20th century resulted in a resurgence in the production of photographs of Maori. A business man, Iles recognised this renewed interest in Maori culture. He drew on established subjects, photographing senior men and young women. Iles's efforts to attract Maori to his studios were aided by two factors. Firstly his association with Captain Gilbert Mair, a highly regarded captain of Maori troops loyal to the colonial government, facilitated visits by Maori community. Secondly, his marriage to Rebecca Elsie Utuatonga, a Maori woman, is likely to have assisted him to encourage young women to be photographed. In this photograph the woman's face is adorned with a moko ngutu [female lip tattoo] and moko kauae [female chin tattoo]. The moko appear to have been enhanced by the photographer for aesthetic emphasis, a common practice in studio portraiture of this type. Moko often referenced whakapapa [genealogical lines] and acknowledged the status and rank of a person. They were also a form of personal adornment. The woman is wearing a kahu kiwi [kiwi feather cloak]. Kahu huruhuru [feather cloaks] became popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Of these, the kahu kiwi were the most highly regarded. Feathers decorate the woman's hair. The white feathers are possibly kotuku (white heron or Ardea alba modesta). The black and white feather is the distinctive tail feather of the now extinct huia (Heteralocha acutirostris). Traditionally such head ornamentation was reserved for people of high rank. In order to meet the expectations of the non-indigenous market, however, photographers endeavoured to accentuate the cultural differences of their subjects. Thus, sitters were often dressed in all of their cultural ornamentation.

Details

  • Title: Maori woman, Rotorua, New Zealand
  • Date Created: 1900 - 1920
  • Physical Dimensions: w137 x h198 mm
  • Type: Photograph
  • Rights: Copyright expired. Source: Museum Victoria. Indigenous or Cultural Rights Apply, Copyright expired: Source: Museum Victoria / Photographer: Arthur James Iles. Indigenous or Cultural Rights apply
  • External Link: Museum Victoria Collections
  • Medium: Albumen print
  • Photographer: Arthur James Iles
  • Artist Information: Arthur James Iles was a professional photographer. Active during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in New Zealand, Iles photographed a range of subjects including people, landscapes, historical and tourist sites as well as indigenous flora and fauna. His specialisation was portraiture, particularly of the Maori population. Iles was born in Oamaru in New Zealand’s South Island in 1870. Iles was the son of photographer James and hairdresser Louisa Iles. This early association with photography no doubt influenced him to establish his own studio in Lawrence, Central Otago in 1891 at just 21 years of age. Throughout his career he relocated several times working in Thames, Auckland and Rotorua as well as in Sydney, Australia at the Falk Studios. He married Maori woman, Rebecca Elsie Utuatonga on 27 August 1895 with whom he had five children. They divorced in 1932 and Iles married Ada Hunt. Iles died on 9 April 1943.

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Recommended

Google apps