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Alf Rendell 1917-2019

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It is with great sadness that the Tauranga Heritage Collection acknowledges the passing of local legend Alf Rendell. Alf made a huge contribution to the Collection, both in terms of his knowledge and expertise and in the many important donations he made over the years. Our recent collaboration for Tongan Language Week was just one of many highlights. We were fortunate to have photographs of Alf taken with some of his donations and in the coming months we will be working with several groups in the community to acknowledge his contributions. The following article about Alf's photography career was written in 2013 for the Tauranga Historical Society Blog http://taurangahistorical.blogspot.com/ and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

Despite apprenticeship offers, and his father’s encouragement that he take a government job, Alf Rendell chose photography and stuck with it. It was, after all, in his blood. 

Alf’s father, Robert John Rendell was a professional photographer. Trained in Hamilton he travelled the country taking images that were often published in the Auckland Weekly News. Finding work scarce after the First World War he moved his family to Tauranga to become the town’s meter reader working with the electrical pioneer Lloyd Mandeno. In 1926 his desire to return to photography led him to purchase a photographic business from Robert Meers.

Initially working from home in Edgecumbe Road the business grew and a studio was established in the Triangle Building at the bottom of Devonport Road. Downstairs Alf’s mother ran the shop while upstairs his  father took portraits. His sister Marje developed film and colour tinted photographs, something she was very good at. It was Marje who showed Alf how to work in a dark room and he clearly remembers developing his first film. The joy he felt when the image was revealed has always stayed with him.

With his father’s health failing in 1938 Alf, aged 20, took over the business only to find himself closing it in 1941 when army service in the Pacific called. Although the studio was converted into a Chinese Laundry the sympathetic  landlord promised the building would be available on Alf’s return.

After the war Rendell’s Photoservice included a Candid Studio, photo finishing and camera retail. Alf also worked as a freelance photographer trading under the name Renwood Studio. Finding himself pulled in too many directions Alf made the decision to sell, keeping only the retail side of the business which he passed on to his son Graham, also a photographer.

Over his more than 80 years of taking photographs in Tauranga Alf has captured many important moments from smiling babies to happy wedding days. He’s flown in aeroplanes to get panoramic views and recorded buildings and businesses that have long since disappeared. It is Tauranga’s history that Alf captured through his lens and continues to share with others.