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Story: Mundy, Daniel Louis

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Mundy, Daniel Louis



This biography, written by William Main, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.

Daniel Louis Mundy was born, probably in 1826 or 1827, in Wiltshire, England, the son of James Mundy, a confectioner, and his wife, Sarah. Nothing is known of his early life, except that he married Louisa Rust at Hackney, London, on 19 July in 1856. Mundy may have come to New Zealand via the Australian goldfields. He arrived in Dunedin in 1864 with sufficient capital to buy William Meluish's photographic business.

Probably in 1865 Mundy moved to Christchurch where he entered into partnership with Braham La Mert. By 1867 he was working on his own account and is known to have photographed moa skeletons for Julius von Haast. He briefly took part in public life as a member of the fire police.

Mundy originally worked principally as a portrait photographer, but after a photographic expedition to the West Coast in 1868 he set out in 1869 to travel New Zealand, taking views and selling prints as he went. He was possibly the first New Zealand photographer to concentrate exclusively on this branch of the profession. Others may have boasted a wide selection of views in their advertisements, but these often came from a variety of sources and did not represent the work of any one photographer.

Mundy spent some years travelling through Canterbury, the Southern Alps, Wellington, Poverty Bay, the Bay of Plenty, Taupo, Rotorua, Auckland and Hokianga. He took many photographs, sometimes at great personal risk and discomfort. He was in the central North Island during the pursuit of Te Kooti, and was said to have narrowly escaped attack.

In a number of the bigger centres Mundy advertised his prints in a pre-publication subscription series. In this fashion he attracted the patronage and friendship of a number of influential people including James Hector, George Grey and Haast. His landscapes of the thermal districts, the Bay of Islands, Hokianga and the East Coast were highly praised for their technical excellence: 'he is not satisfied until he has got the right light upon his object and the best effect from his chemicals. He is not content with the mediocre or the ordinary.'

Mundy was based at Port Chalmers in spite of his extensive travelling; the Mundys' only child, a daughter, was born there in 1873. He displayed his photographs in Wellington in 1872, and in the mid 1870s departed for England to further his career. Here he used his extensive collection of New Zealand photographs to stage displays and give lectures. In 1873 a number of his photographs were used by the New Zealand government in their exhibit at the Vienna exhibition. In 1875 he published a book, Rotomahana – the boiling spring of New Zealand, with a foreword by Ferdinand Hochstetter. It was one of the first books to use the autotype process, a technique which allowed photographs to be reproduced in a printing press with all their halftones intact. The excellence of this publication earned Mundy a decoration from the Austrian court.

Mundy moved to New South Wales, then Victoria, in 1875. He returned briefly to New Zealand in 1877 and gave a number of illustrated lectures based on his work. His photographs of this period make the claim that he had secured the patronage of members of the British royal family. In 1880 he was working as a photographer in Sydney. He died at Emerald Hill, Victoria, on 30 November 1881. It is not known when or where Louisa Mundy died.

How to cite this page:

William Main. 'Mundy, Daniel Louis', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2m62/mundy-daniel-louis (accessed 19 April 2024)