Photographer looks back on long career

22:45, Jun 11 2013
HAPPY DAYS: Eminent scenic photographer Gladys Goodall, QSM, JP celebrated her 105th birthday in Christchurch.

An English tourist approached the stranger taking photos above the Sign of the Takahe on the Port Hills.

"You must be Gladys Goodall, " he said.

"That's right, " Mrs Goodall replied.

"Then I have to ask, how did you get that picture inside the Homer Tunnel?"

Mrs Goodall, QSM, JP, recounted the moment, some half a century past, on the eve of her 105th birthday at the Fendalton Retirement Village as she reflected on a happy life.

As it happened, her Homer Tunnel shot was acquired by persuading some truck drivers to edge past her car in the tunnel, all lights full beam, with her camera on a 90-second exposure.


Gladys Goodall's photographs are regarded as an important visual record of the province across 30 years from 1950.

About 10,940 colour transparencies and 950 postcards by Mrs Goodall are in the photographic archive of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

Her images helped seal New Zealand's affluent post-war image as a scenic jewel. Gladys Mary Goodall was born on June 2, 1908, the second eldest of eight children who grew up on a remote 450-acre south Otago hill country farm at Puketi.

"There were no roads, just tracks." Rocks from the quarry were later broken to form a road.

Gladys went on to embark on a nursing career, and started training at Waimate Hospital.

There, she met her future husband, Stan, a handsome young farmer from the big family sheep run in the Hakataramea Valley, South Canterbury. It was destroyed by fire, driving his family off the land. They married in 1938.

"I went into a ward and saw him in a bed.

"I thought, what a nice man. Later he told me, 'I thought, what a nice girl'.

She graduated at Timaru Hospital and went on to complete maternity and Plunket training, working as a Plunket nurse during the war.

The young country girl who enjoyed playing around with her No 2 Brownie camera and developing negatives in the scullery was soon to become a household name with her scenic shots.

At age 44, Mrs Goodall quit nursing and set up as a scenic postcard photographer when the couple established their home in Cashmere.

In 1960, her reputation flourishing, Mrs Goodall brokered an exclusive contract with Whitcombe and Tombs (later Whitcoulls) to provide colour photography for the company's postcards.

She travelled the country alone on rugged roads in her yellow Mark 111 Ford, clocking more than 160,000 kilometres until it was written off in an accident which put her in a Bay of Plenty hospital for a month.

She produced numerous Panorama books and about 1800 postcards.

Mrs Goodall taught herself by trial and error, enjoying experimenting with lenses, filters and exposure times.

A hard lesson - rejection by a professional dealer of her first photograph of Skipper's Canyon - became a valuable learning tool.

"The composition was all wrong."

She caught the spectacular scene again, and the photo was accepted.


Fairfax Media