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Clifton Firth

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110 Queen Street

Despite the economic depression, the 1930s were a golden age for women’s fashion with the emergence of the glamorous Hollywood siren and escape into fantasy.

A simplification of line and embellishment coupled with new cheaper fabrics made ready-to-wear fashion more affordable. Photography made it more visible. Graphic designer Clifton Firth and his then wife Patricia, who was a journalist and had studied portrait photography, set up a commercial photography studio. In 1938 they moved to 110 Queen Street where the studio remained until Clifton’s retirement in 1974.

Clifton’s photographs were influenced by black and white Hollywood glamour portraits that used strong light and shadow to create drama and to enhance and flatter the subject’s features. The resulting large black and white negatives were often retouched, using soft graphite pencil to fill in facial lines or soften blemishes, before printing. A sought after photographer for portraits his images were regularly printed in local journals and magazines.

Much of the studio’s commercial work was however related to fashion. Creating advertising images for fashion manufacturers but also producing seasonal photography for one of Auckland’s most up-market retail department stores, Milne & Choyce, handily located on Queen Street directly opposite his studio. Auckland City Libraries holds a collection of over 100,000 of Clifton Firth’s photographic negatives an invaluable resource for the Fashion Museum.

Read more at www.nzfashionmuseum.org.nz/clifton-firth

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