06 Dec 2017

This content is tagged as Literature .


Brilliant innovative book that brings to life the first years of film of New Zealanders at home and at war

This is the book that I've hoped someone would write - Sir Peter Jackson

Film captivated New Zealand when it reached the country in 1895. The Camera in the Crowd brings to life those exhilarating 25 years of filming and picture screening that followed in a sumptuous hardback, telling the story through the footage that survives in the archive of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, the national film archive.

The Auckland commercial traveller A.H. Whitehouse was the first to show film by Edison’s peepshow Kinetoscope, and was also the first to direct the filming of New Zealand scenes, at the opening of the Auckland Industrial and Mining Exhibition on 1 December 1898. The pair made nine other films, but their output was soon overtaken by the Salvation Army, which by the beginning of the 20th century was the largest film producer in Australasia.

New Zealand developed a small body of professional cameramen to feed the country’s insatiable appetite for film. This is the history of those cameramen, their work, and the theatre owners such as Hayward’s and Fuller’s who screened the films — viewed through the film that was taken not only at home but also of the Kiwi ‘Diggers’ in the First World War.

It features 350 photographs and illustrations, including eight pages of colour. Uniquely, the book also acts as an entry to moving film, as the author explains:

Film is made to be seen on screen and this book reflects this by providing stills from the films discussed. Titles of surviving films are also identified by a small projector in the margin that allows you to access the film online and pause and have a look at what you are reading about.

Each page also includes a still from the 1914 Auckland’s Expeditionary Force: The Minister of Defence Reviews the Troops; you can see the complete film online, or enjoy this segment by flipping the pages in the manner of the once very popular flip books.

As Sir Peter Jackson writes in his foreword: “Not only does Dr Pugsley tell the many rich and entertaining stories of how motion picture cameras captured New Zealanders in the first turbulent decades of the 20th Century, he provides us with all the links and archive information we need to peer into the past through this magical window of film. You are holding a treasure trove in your hands. It’s time to peer through that peephole, and see our country of 100 years ago come alive again.”

Told with Pugsley’s brilliant and engaging style, The Camera in the Crowd is indeed a treasure.

Christopher Pugsley is one of New Zealand’s leading historians, noted especially for his military histories such as Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, The Anzac Experience and A Bloody Road Home: World War Two and New Zealand’s Heroic Second Division. He has a lifelong passion for film and a long-standing interest in film history, sparked by research he completed for the New Zealand Film Archive, now Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, in the early 1990s.

Publication: December 2017 | ISBN: 978-0-947506-34-6 | RRP $80

To arrange an interview with Christopher, images or a review copy, contact:

Belinda Cooke, 021 481 044 or belinda@oratia.co.nz