My essay on Christchurch’s seaside tent camps is included in The Lives of Colonial Objects, edited by Annabel Cooper, Lachy Paterson and Angela Wanhalla and published this month by Otago University Press.
From the 1890s into the early 1900s, informal tent ‘camps’ were set up at beaches within commuting distance from Christchurch by young people – principally young men – who enjoyed the pleasures of holidaying by the sea while maintaining their employment over summer. Small configurations of tents developed their own identities, adopting names such as the Daisy Camp, Lily Camp and Tui Camp, and some of these went to great lengths in decorating their accommodation and providing hospitality to visitors.
Christchurch-based photographer Adam Henry Pearson Maclay photographed a number of the camps. His exterior views present tents of various shapes, sizes and organisation, some with neat borders around them marked by occasional plants and painted stones – often with campers posed in the midst of activities such as cooking and dining al fresco. Inside, many of the tents were furnished and adorned with standard domestic items, including dressing tables, floor coverings, potted plants, ornaments, and framed pictures, as well as items such as advertising posters, paper chains, flags, and photographs featuring the camp itself.
The essay provides background on the camps and their activities, and Maclay’s intriguing photographs of them.
The Lives of Colonial Objects has 50 illustrated essays exploring a wide range of ‘colonial objects’ from a variety of perspectives, and it’s a beautiful production; more information on it is available at OUP’s website.