Emigrating from Gravesend in 1861, she and her husband George (a joiner and draftsman by trade) opened a photography studio in Short Street, Auckland, in 1867, specialising in portraiture and scenic views of the ‘new’ country for wealthy settlers or the tourist trade.
Although Elizabeth was widowed twice with nine children, she continued to run the Pulman Photographic Studio until its sale shortly before she died. Her most enduring work was a series of portraits of Maori men, women and children – including the tattooed (moko) faces of many important chiefs of the North Island – sold as albumen prints, their evocative titles set in the image. Most examples are held in public collections.
Two New Zealand news crews were in Whitchurch, Shropshire, on February 20 to record the sale of 13 Pulman albumen prints unearthed by auctioneers Trevanion & Dean. The photographs, consigned by a Telford vendor who had kept them in a drawer for 30 years, included some of the best-known Maori prints, preserved in generally good condition.
Estimated at between £200-500 each, bidding for the group – doubtless aided by the blessing of the Maori Society of London who travelled to Shropshire to pray around the photographs before they were sold – reached close to £18,000. Four of the 11 x 8in (28cm x 21cm) images will return to New Zealand, with two secured by a descendent of Elizabeth Pulman.
Prices ranged from £850 for Pineaha Warekoha to £2000 for the striking image titled Tita Wirum Te Wahanuis Sisters and numbered 75.