New Zealand's first female photographer was born Elizabeth Chadd to Mary (Clayton) and William Chadd in Cheshire, England on August 1, 1836. Her father was a bricklayer, and little is known about her working-class childhood. At the age of 22, Miss Chadd married local resident George Pulman, a widower with two young sons and a great interest in photography. After giving birth to a daughter, Mrs. Pulman and her family sailed from London to New Zealand on the Broadwater, and after a three-month journey, finally arrived in Auckland on July 30, 1861. Mr. Pulman found work as a draughtsman to support his growing family, which would include three more sons and two daughters. In 1867, he finally realized his goal of opening his own photographic studio, on Shortland Street, and soon earned a reputation as an excellent portrait and landscape photographer. His wife shared his love of photography, and because independent opportunities for female photographers were nonexistent at the time, she collaborated with her husband, joining him both in the studio and in the field. They were fascinated by the Maori culture, and photographed several chiefs and other historically significant landmarks.
After George Pulman died on April 17, 1871, his widow continued supporting her family by photography, and her income was compromised by the lack of copyright protection for photographers. Mrs. Pulman became a crusader for artistic copyright protection, and in a letter to the New Zealand Herald, she issued an appeal to the public not to purchase pirated copies of her studio's photographs. Her activism led to an introduction to another widower named John Blackman, who was a reporter for the Auckland Star. They married on June 14, 1875, and together they had a son. Widowed again in 1893, Mrs. Pulman (she continued using her first husband's surname for professional purposes) continued operating Pulman's Photographic Studio and was later joined by her son Frederick. Her deep respect for the Maori people and culture is readily apparent in her portraits that are distinguished by their intricate detail and emphasize the photographer's mastery of light and shadow techniques. She provides a rare glimpse of the indigenous Ngati Maniapoto tribe, and her images celebrate their unique traditions and ornate style of dress. She was one of the few 'outsiders' welcomed into the North Island chiefs' inner circle.
After nearly three decades, Mrs. Pulman sold her successful studio shortly before her death on February 3, 1900 at the age of 63. Her negatives were sold to the New Zealand Government Tourist Bureau, and their reprints remain popular tourist keepsakes. Other original photographs and correspondence are housed in the National Library of New Zealand's Alexander Turnbull Library.
2003 Auckland-Waikato Historical Journal, Issues 81-84 (Auckland, NZ: Auckland Historical Society), p. 8.
2016 Early Photos of Maori for Sale, Taken by One of NZ's First Women Photographers (URL: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/76930124/Early-photos-of-Maori-for-sale-taken-by-one-of-NZs-first-women-photographers).
2017 Elizabeth Pulman (URL: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/1702/elizabeth-pulman).
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 994, 1179.
2006 Out of Time: Maori & the Photographer 1860-1940 by Michael Graham-Stewart and John Gow (Auckland, NZ: John Leech Gallery), p. 44.
2017 Pulman, Elizabeth by Phillip D. Jackson (URL: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2p32/pulman-elizabeth).
2017 Rewi Manga Maniapoto photographed by Elizabeth Pulman (URL: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/photograph/702/rewi-manga-maniapoto-photographed-by-elizabeth-pulman).
2015 Conciliation on Cultural Frontiers: Routledge Studies in Cultural History (New York: Taylor & Francis/Routledge), p. 215.
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