Photographer Compares Digital And Wet-Plate Photos To Show The Cultural Tā Moko Markings Of Māori People

If you heard about wet plate photography or the Collodion process you might as well know that it was a very popular method of photography back in the 19th century and is becoming popular again in our times. Studying wet plate photography for years has brought Auckland-based photographer Michael Bradley to explore Māori culture more closely (Māori people are an indigenous tribe of New Zealand).

Māori arts play a significant role in New Zealand including weaving, carving, performances, oratory, and the famous tattoos – Ta moko, which has become the subject of Micael’s examination. Tā moko is the traditional tattoo art of Māori people and is the symbol of social status, rank, and power. It symbolizes the person’s connection to his roots, it is the language in which the past and the present connect.

Puaki (which means to emerge, come forth, give testimony) project was born from the fact that during the 1850s, wet-plate photography was kind of erasing the tattoos and tā moko was hardly showed in the photos and in this way of comparing digital photos to wet plate photos Michael tried to reveal, bring forth and show the history and highlight the importance of beautiful cultural markers.

In his Puaki series, the photographer portrayed the participants in tā moko who proudly wear their marking and are the true embodiment of history and worthy bearers of an almost fading culture in our modern age.

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Photo: © Michael Bradley

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Photo: © Michael Bradley