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Cast In Light: Life In A Mining Town – A Photographic Record Of Waiuta By Joseph Divis

An exhibition showing life in the gold mining town of Waiuta near Reefton, during its heyday in the 1930s, opens at the National Library in Wellington on 12 March.

This record was made by Bohemian-born photographer / miner Joseph Divis, who arrived in New Zealand in 1909.

Working underground as a gold miner gave Divis access to the mines. His images, including flash photographs, provide a unique record of mining as well as life in mining communities, especially the now-abandoned town of Waiuta, on the West Coast of the South Island, where he settled.

Divis worked around New Zealand but made his permanent home in Waiuta, staying on with responsibility as the local telephone operator when the population moved away after the mine was closed in 1951.

The Alexander Turnbull Library acquired 600 images by Divis in 2009, and the collection has underpinned the research and publications of exhibition curator Simon Nathan, and two recent film documentaries on Divis and Waiuta.

Divis and his photographs will also feature in new displays at Waihi, where he worked as a miner for a time and at Blackball, where Divis produced postcards after his arrival in New Zealand. The Department of Conservation has recently restored the Divis house in Waiuta.

A group of Divis family descendants are travelling to New Zealand from the Czech Republic for the exhibition opening and will also attend the other commemorative events.

Cast in Light curator Simon Nathan will be giving a tour of the exhibition on 20 April at 10am, followed by a screening of the short film JOS. Simon will be joined by wetplate photographer and photo historian Brian Scadden who will display a selection of his early camera and processing equipment.

Alternatively join us for one of our monthly Tea and Tours: Cast in Light sessions where we explore the exhibition, watch the film and enjoy kai together (18 April or 16 May, 10am – 12pm).

The exhibition runs from 12 March to 6 July.

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