The Jack Adamson Collection, a rare and unique collection of glass plate photographs, was celebrated last month by the South Canterbury Museum with the opening of an exhibition and book launch — Feeling for Daylight: The Photographs of Jack Adamson.
The Adamson Collection is one of the Museum’s real treasures. Pat Adamson, Jack Adamson’s grandson, has been instrumental in ensuring the preservation of these delicate glass plates, which date from the late nineteenth century. The unique documentary record that his grandfather’s photographs contain is, he believes, a legacy to the nation. The Adamson’s family selfless placement of the collection into the care of the South Canterbury Museum allows this unique collection to be available to the public and helps to ensure the long-term protection of Jack Adamson’s work.
The photographs take viewers on a stunning photographic journey around the Southern Alps and early settler communities on the eastern and western side of the mountains. A hundred years away from rescue helicopters you can see early mountaineers doing daredevil moves at time when the Southern Alps were far more isolated than they are today. Adamson captured some of the pivotal moments in the history of earlier mountaineering. His photographs include wonderful character studies, beautiful topographical views and his work contains a surprising array of emotion — the everyday, the humorous and moments of spontaneity that were rare for this period of photography.
The photographs have been sumptuously reproduced in Feeling for Daylight: The photographs of Jack Adamson. The author, Rhian Gallagher, received a Canterbury Community Historian grant in 2007. Gallagher sets Adamson’s photography in context, unravelling some of the complicated twists and turns of his story that would in the end reduce Adamson to the point of bankruptcy. Adamson started taking photographs when first employed at the Mt Cook Hermitage in 1889. He was the first New Zealand-born guide to work at the Mount Cook Hermitage and became manager of the hotel in 1893. Prejudicial attitudes about Adamson’s working class background were a significant factor in how he and his wife, Nora, were forced to leave the Hermitage.
Tony Rippin, Curator of Documentary History, and Rhian Gallagher have worked in collaboration on the design and production of the book. The production has been supported by Creative Communities Timaru, The South Canterbury Museum Development Trust, Raymond Sullivan McGlashan, and the South Canterbury Historical Society. Enquiries can be directed to either myself or our Director Philip Howe via the museum website or our main email address firstname.lastname@example.org