Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Charles Beken - Christchurch Photographer

One of New Zealand's leading mountain, landscape, flora and portrait photographers was Charles Beken.
He was the son of Thomas Beken and Eleanor Hurst born 11 September 1859 on board the immigrant ship "Zealandia" which sailed London 11 August 1859 - arrived Lyttelton 12 November 1859. 

The photograph below is one of Bekens which appeared in "The Flora of Mount Cook - A Handbook by Arnold Wall", (The Lyttelton Times Co., Christchurch, 1925). Many others grace the publication.
It was during the 1907 International Exhibition at Hagley Park in Christchurch that Beken got to know the West Coast doctor, and photographer, Dr. Ebenezer Teichelmann. They formed a .life-long friendship. Beken died 1 December 1944 aged 85 years. Beken's photos are spread amongst Te Papa, The National Library and Canterbury Museum.
I offer a word f caution for those researching NZ mountaineering history. Late last year while assisting the staff at Hokitika Museum identify some unmarked photographs in their extensive collection, I came across a number of superb photos taken by Beken. I can identify most photographs taken by Ebenezer Teichelmann, and in most cases, those of Henery Newton.
But where it becomes confusing is in that era, photographers shared photographs with one another. This was normally done to assist others to put together a more comprehensive lantern slide presentation.
When examining photographic collections in Hokitika Museum last year I noticed how collections get mixed up. Teichelmann and Newton shared photos freely with each other. W.A. Kennedy was a friend of Teichelmann and a good photographer too. In fact, he sorted and annotated the doctor's collection and displayed them in albums. I picked up one of two mistakes in his captioning. Then you find photos of H.M ( Merle) Sweeney from Hokitika in other collections. I also found photographs taken by H.E.L Porter too.
But today with digital images, it even gets more confusing. If you are interested in reading more about Charles Beken, and viewing his photos go to an excellent blog,…/…/beken.html  These photos have been reproduced with their permission.

Here are some more photos with
description from 
Industrial Exhibition 1895
... Mr Charles Beken shows some exceedingly nice work, one of the most attractive specimens of which is No. 78, an enlarged portrait of a child, charming in its delicacy and softness...
Star, Issue 5371, 24 September 1895, Page 4

"Millbrook Reserve - an open air fernery on the Avon riverside, Christchurch"
blind stamped "C. Beken - Chch"
protected C. Beken 25/5/2- 

reverse inscribed
"Please return R. B. Owen, 751 Colombo St"
 [Richard Bedward Owen - see Rich Man, Poor Man, Environmentalist, Thief, Biographies of Canterbury personalities written for the Millennium and for the 150th anniversary of the Canterbury Settlement by Richard L N Greenaway]

 An unidentified bush scene by Charles Beken

" Sir, —I would like to ask your advice on the following matter: —Last October I did a lot of photographic work for the Government Tourist Department, for their exhibit in the Industrial Exhibition held here last November, and up to date have not been able to get payment for it. My account was rendered to the Tourist Department here, and the officer in charge informs me he "passed" it and forwarded it to the head office. He informs me he has written about it and other accounts for work done for tho same Exhibition, and that none have been paid yet (although it is now six months ago). I have also written myself about it, and was informed that my account had been passed, and that a cheque would reach me at an early date. But the early date does not come. When next I enquired, I was told that all accounts would be squared up before Mr Massey took charge of affairs, but as Mr Massey did not take charge of affairs my account has not been paid. The next time I enquired, it was All accounts would be paid by the end of March the end of the Government financial year. I would be glad if you could inform me what is the best thing to do in the matter. Can I place it in the hands of a solicitor to take proceedings, as the Department evidently does not intend to pay it unless something is done. I would like to state that the prices charged for the work done by me were the prices fixed by the Tourist Department, viz., for lantern slides, 1s each, and for 23in. x 17in. enlargements, 5s each (I would like to know how many firms would like to do work at those sweating prices), and the other work was done at the same ridiculously low rates, and then the Government do not pay for the work till months after. A great proportion of the money was paid out for materials, and as I am only a working man, working on my own account, it is too bad to be kept waiting all these months for my money.—Yours, etc., CHAS. BEKEN.

We trust that the publication of the above letter will have the result desired by our correspondent.—Ed. "The Press.

Press, Volume LXVIII, Issue 14331, 17 April 1912, Page 7

Six photographs by Charles John Beken were published in the book
New Zealand Memories by Brenda Guthrie, M.B.E. 
Published - John Lane, The Bodley Head Limited, 1930.
Ti Tree, or Manuka"

Mt. Cook and Hooker Glacier shewing Mountain "Lillies"

"Bush" showing Birch trees and ferns

Ribbonwood, native of New Zealand

Mountain Daisies

Mountain Lillies which love the snow

Photographs by Charles Beken appeared in "The Flora of Mount Cook - A Handbook by Arnold Wall", The Lyttelton Times Co., Christchurch, 1925. 

A photograph of the Canterbury Museum by Charles Beken is shown in "Heritage New Zealand,"  Historic Places Trust, page 54, issue 130, Spring 2013.
Show More Reactio