Picturing the War

A fortnight after war was declared, Edward Jekyll enlisted and served with the 1st Canterbury Mounted Rifles, fighting at Gallipoli and in Egypt.

Edward Jekyll’s Vest Pocket Kodak camera and case

Courtesy of Barry O’Sullivan

Like hundreds of soldiers, Edward took a Vest Pocket Kodak camera overseas.

Cantabrians at home relied on these soldier snapshots for images of the War until 1917 when New Zealand appointed an official photographer. Edward spent 4 years in the Middle East and was discharged 6 weeks after the War ended.

During World War Two, he re-enlisted and served at home with the No 8 Ellesmere Squadron. He started his military career as a private and ended it nearly 30 years later as a full lieutenant.

Sun 1 March 191 7.jpg 1900H

The Soldier’s Kodak

The Vest Pocket Kodak camera, commonly known as the ‘Soldier’s Kodak’, was small, lightweight and easy to carry.

Through an opening on the back of the camera, notes could be written onto the film with a metal stylus. Over 1.75 million were sold worldwide.


In Christchurch, camera specialists such as Sucklings on Cashel Street sold Vest Pocket Kodak cameras

Sun, 1 March 1916

AWNS 19150624 p035 i001 x4

Soldier Snaps

With their cameras, ordinary soldiers produced thousands of snapshots of their lives at war, recording the chaos of battle as well as time spent sightseeing. The first image of Gallipoli that New Zealanders saw was taken by Auckland soldier Private Robert Blackwell Steele. His photograph of soldiers under fire was published on the front cover of the Auckland Weekly News on 24 June 1915.

New Zealanders in action: a remarkable photograph taken under fire by Private Robert Blackwell Steele

Auckland Weekly News, 24 June 1915. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19150624-35-1

1987.80.1227 Hough.

An enthusiastic amateur photographer, Albert Edward Hough of Linwood, Christchurch, compiled an album filled with snapshots he took of his wartime experiences as well as professional photographs he bought.


Snapshot of Albert Hough (left) and two soldiers

Canterbury Museum 1986.80.1227

1987.80.1191 med

Photo from Albert Hough's album

Canterbury Museum 1986.80.1191

Photo from Albert Hough's album

Canterbury Museum 1986.80.1221

1986.80.1221 Soldiers drinking
1987.80.1100 med

New Zealand Government official photograph of Ypres Cathedral, 1917

Canterbury Museum 1986.80.1100

Stamps placed on the back of official photographs

Canterbury Museum 1986.80.1075


Official Images

It wasn’t until March 1917 that the New Zealand High Commissioner in London appointed Henry Armytage Sanders as official photographer of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on the Western Front.

Unlike earlier soldier snaps, the Government heavily censored official photographs. Particularly horrendous scenes, such as images of Passchendaele where more than 800 men died on a single day were not published at the time.