British photographic history

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NZ museum acquires Tesla Studios' iconic photographs

Mark Lampe, a respected commercial and artistic photographer, established the Tesla photographic studios in Wanganui (New Zealand) in 1908, having managed the Tasma studios in Hokitika after emigrating from Australia to New Zealand. He named the business after Nikolai Tesla, the eminent physicist, after whom a unit of light is called. Trained as an artistic photographer, Lampe was famous for his sharp attention to detail, unmatched technical ability, and ability to turn banal everyday subjects into visionary artistic photographs.

A generous $50,000 donation from an unnamed local benefactor made it possible for The Whanganui Regional Museum to purchase a collection of 80,000 acetate negatives from the Tesla Studios Collection 1928-1955 at a recent Dunbar Sloane auction in Wellington. As well as advertising and commercial photography, Mr Lampe recorded weddings, portraits and school photographs, floods, earthquake damage, parades, processions and ceremonies.

The Tesla collection is presently on exhibit at the Sarjeant Gallery which comprise of a wall display of 21 framed prints and four albums containing 100 smaller prints, and offers a sharp perspective of Wanganui life from 1930 to 155. It represents just a tip of the iceberg, as they were chosen from approx. 80,000 mainly cellulose acetate negatives, owned by Leigh Mitchel Anyon Photographer Ltd. A news report can be found here.


Photo: Lampe/Tesla Studios, Wanganui Collection 80,000 Photographic Negatives. Achieved $50,000 at auction.

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