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Alf Rendell: Eighty-five years of photography

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In a collaboration with the Tauranga Historical Society we have created a display honouring local photographer Alf Rendell who passed away 27 December 2019. 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. The display was part of the Society's annual Garden Party and will be in the Brain Watkins House for all of March. The following text is taken from the display.

Alf Rendell’s father, Robert, was a professional photographer who travelled the country taking images that were often published in the Auckland Weekly News. Finding work scarce after the First World War Robert moved his family to Tauranga to become the town’s meter reader. Alf was eight months old at the time.

In 1926 Robert’s desire to return to photography led him to purchase a photographic business. The business grew and a studio was established at the bottom of Devonport Road. Alf’s mother ran the shop while upstairs his father took portraits. His sister, Marje, developed film and colour tinted photographs. It was Marje who showed Alf how to work in a dark room and he would recall the joy he felt when the first image was revealed. Despite his father’s encouragement that he take a government job, Alf chose photography and stuck with it, after all it was in his blood.

In 1938, with his father’s health failing, Alf, aged 20, took over the business. In 1941 army service in the Pacific called and the studio was converted into a laundry. However, a sympathetic landlord promised the building would be available on Alf’s return. After the war Rendell’s Photo Service included a Candid Studio, photo finishing and camera retail. Alf also worked as a freelance photographer trading under the name Renwood Studio. It was during this time that Alf become the town’s most popular wedding photographer.

Over eighty-five years of taking photographs Alf captured many personal moments from smiling babies to happy weddings. He also recorded panoramic views of the region as well as buildings and businesses that have long since disappeared. His photogaphic legacy is a gift to the people of Tauranga.