Picturing men : using photography to broaden the understanding of masculinity in Christchurch, 1880-1930.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Through the analysis of photographs of Christchurch men, this thesis will explore and expand the historiography around masculinity in New Zealand. It will argue that how men saw themselves was informed by concepts of power and class, alongside aspects such as physical strength and ideas of manliness. Masculinity was a fluid concept; its interpretation differed across class, race and gender lines. The urban masculine identities found in Christchurch during 1880-1930 demonstrate the complexity of gender construction. They offer another view to that of a New Zealand masculinity steeped in stereotypes of rural, isolated men.
Photographs are the central documents within this thesis and the growing field of visual history provides the framework for study. Photograph collections are selected from a variety of sources, including the Canterbury Museum, the Christchurch City Council archives, the Christchurch Club, Christchurch Boys' High School and my own family collection. The selection process centres on presenting collections which offer insight into a variety of settings across Christchurch, and the photographs within this thesis were chosen due to their representation of the collection they came from. Gillian Rose's methodology, which looks at the sites of production, the image, and the audience, shapes the study of the photographs. Read as documents and then situated into the broader contextual understanding of turn of the twentieth century Christchurch, these photographs allow the viewer to read the past with new eyes.
This thesis offers a complementary reading of the masculine history of New Zealand. With an analysis influenced by the theoretical underpinnings of gender history, social history and visual history, the photographs show how ideas of masculinity developed in the urban setting of Christchurch. It highlights how ideas of class shaped the power relations of men, how physical settings offered different aspects of masculinity to be portrayed. The relationships between men, as well as those between men and women, demonstrate how masculine ideas were not dictated to by stereotypes, but by a range of at times contradictory imagery.