Museum Exhibition Celebrates Whanganui Photographer

The Whanganui Regional Museum is set to open a new photographic exhibition showcasing a selection of portraits by prominent Whanganui photographer William James Harding.

Between Skin & Shirt: The photographic portraits of William Harding will be opened with a formal ceremony at the Museum later this week.

Harding operated a photographic studio in Whanganui from the 1850s to the 1880s. His photographs depict the township of that time, and most notably its people.  He used minimal props or backdrops, and his reluctance to retouch the images for the sake of flattery make for honest character studies.

The exhibition of 58 works has been lent by the National Library of New Zealand, from the collection held by the Alexander Turnbull Library. It includes a digital display with an innovative interactive feature. Visitors will be able to take a ‘selfie’ photograph and their face will be best matched to one in the entire digital collection of over 6,500 images. The selected image will instantly appear on a large screen.

Senior Curator for the Museum, Libby Sharpe, says the exhibition is an exciting addition to the Museum’s offerings. “This exhibition has photos of Whanganui in the early days of photography, the 1860s to 1880s. They are of the Whanganui people of the time, by one of New Zealand’s most renowned photographers, W J Harding. He still has a great reputation. It is both interesting and pertinent to Whanganui people of today, and the National Library were keen to recognise this.”

A schedule of public programmes is also planned to support the exhibition. These will include guided tours by Libby Sharpe and lectures. Dr Fiona Oliver will also return to Whanganui later in September for the Museum’s Spring Lecture series when she will give a lecture on photography and these Harding images.

Between Skin & Shirt: The photographic portraits of William Harding will be open from Saturday 1st July at Whanganui Regional Museum, Pukenamu Queens Park, Watt Street, Whanganui. Admission is free. Dr Fiona Oliver will lead a free tour and talk at 11.00am on Saturday 1st July.

Karen Hughes

27 June 2023