Man standing next to a projector.

Preserving a Photo Album

11 Nov 2016
Charlie Chilcott's unique record of projectionists, projectors and cinemas.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision has digitally preserved and published online a fragile photo album of New Zealand projectionists and cinemas dating back to the 1930s.

Images from photo album - film projectors and projectionist.

Images in the photograph album compiled by Charlie Chilcott

To view the full album click here

The 450 photos in the album were collected by the late Charlie Chilcott, a projectionist who travelled the country and photographed cinemas, projectionists and equipment for many years.

From Invercargill to Kerikeri, the photos date from the 1930s to the 1980s, capturing the images of those who orchestrated the magic of the cinema for decades.

An increasingly rare breed in the age of digital cinema, projectionists were once masters of the theatre, tending the light that beamed moving images through the dark, keeping the film flowing and in focus.

Many photos of projectionists from the 1970s and 1980s were taken by Charlie himself when he visited cinemas in his role as vice president of the Union of Projectionists. His notes record the names of the projectionists and the theatres they worked in.

Images from photo album.

Images in the photograph album compiled by Charlie Chilcott

The album also contains images of a Projectionists Union farewell party for Russ Lynch and images of strike action by the Northern Projectionists Union in 1977.

In 1996 Charlie deposited the album for safe keeping with Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.

"The album is in a very a fragile state and covers such a unique and specialised subject that it was important to preserve and publish it electronically," says Ngā Taonga documentation archivist Mishelle Muagututi’a.

"That way it is free to view for anyone who loves the magic and history of New Zealand cinema or needs access to it as a historical record."

To create high quality scans of the album, Ngā Taonga documentation archivists called upon NZ Micrographic Services (NZMS), which specialise in working with heritage material.

Archivists Tracy White and Mishelle Muagututi’a invite anyone who recalls their community cinema and projectionist of earlier times to share their memories and information. If you recognise people or scenes in the photo album, or want to share a memory or experience of your local cinema, please contact us.

"Over time we hope to build up a repository of anecdotal history and stories about this significant part of New Zealand’s cinematic history," says Mishelle.

View the full album