Story: Pulman, Elizabeth

Page 1 - Pulman, Elizabeth

Pulman, Elizabeth

1836–1900

Photographer

This biography was written by Phillip D. Jackson and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 2, 1993

Elizabeth Chadd was born on 1 August 1836 at Lymm, Cheshire, England, the daughter of Mary Clayton and her husband, William Chadd, a bricksetter. On 2 May 1859 at St Mary's Church, Manchester, Elizabeth married George Pulman, a joiner and widower with two young sons. Elizabeth and George had one daughter in Manchester before sailing in the Broadwater on 3 April 1861 from Gravesend, London; they arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, on 30 July 1861. Elizabeth's two stepsons, aged seven and five, followed on the Messina and arrived in Auckland on 30 June 1862. Three sons and two daughters were born to Elizabeth and George Pulman in Auckland.

George Pulman was employed as a draughtsman until about 1866. In 1867 he commenced business as the proprietor of a photographic studio in Shortland Street, Auckland, specialising in scenic photographs and portraits. Elizabeth Pulman worked with her husband in this venture. After George died on 17 April 1871 Elizabeth continued the work of the studio. In 1871, because there was little or no copyright protection for photographers, Elizabeth wrote to the New Zealand Herald asking the public not to buy pirated copies of a photograph taken by her late husband of his map of the Thames goldfields; it was a prime source of her income.

Elizabeth Pulman married John Blackman, a widower and reporter, on 14 June 1875, at the West Tamaki Presbyterian Church. They had one son. Originally from Surrey, England, Blackman was an able writer and poet. He had been acquainted with Charles Dickens and other leading British authors and occasionally gave lectures about them in Auckland. Elizabeth was again widowed when John Blackman died on 11 June 1893.

Elizabeth Blackman died at Auckland on 3 February 1900. For almost 30 years, until the business was sold shortly before her death, she had carried on Pulman's Photographic Studio. During this successful period Elizabeth was assisted by a son, Frederick, only in later years. She was among New Zealand's early photographers, and was possibly the first woman professional. She coped with the upbringing of nine children as well as the problems of a period of rapidly changing technology in the medium.

Elizabeth Blackman (known professionally as Pulman) and George Pulman left a legacy of many prints of historical interest, in both portrait and scenic subjects. Surviving photographs are held mainly in museums and public library collections. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to distinguish those photographs actually taken by Elizabeth because they usually went under the studio name; there are also some unattributed pirated copies. A scenic collection was sold to the government to promote tourism in New Zealand. The Maori portraits are of interest to historians and genealogists and display moko details of many important chiefs of the North Island.