Story: Frank, Rosaline Margaret

Page 1: Biography

Frank, Rosaline Margaret

1864–1954

Photographer

This biography, written by Hilary Stace, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.

One of New Zealand's first professional women photographers, Rosaline (Rose) Margaret Frank was born in Nelson, New Zealand, on 21 December 1864 to Emma Sophia Haslam and her husband, Christopher Joseph Frank, a carpenter. From 1871 she was educated by the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions at their convent school in Nelson, and remained a faithful Catholic and active church worker all her life. In 1886, at the age of 21, she started work as an assistant to the Tyree brothers in their Trafalgar Street photographic studio. William Tyree, who had started the business in 1878, specialised in studio portraits and recording civic occasions in Nelson. His younger brother, Fred, took scenic views. Rose had excellent handwriting and the artistic talents required for the high standard of studio photography.

Fred Tyree soon left to set up his own business in Takaka, Golden Bay. William was interested in the latest technological developments, and in 1895 appointed Rose Frank manager with power of attorney when he went overseas to further his knowledge. He returned around 1897. The business flourished and by 1906 was heavily involved in tourism promotion. Its reputation for quality work had spread throughout New Zealand and six assistants were employed.

About 1910 William Tyree departed for Australia leaving Rose Frank to manage the business, which she bought in 1914 for £750. William believed he could have received a higher price from another buyer but recognised Rose's contribution. She kept the Tyree name, but the business gradually became smaller, as fewer new photographs were taken each year. The large building that William Tyree had built in 1884 had been sold to Hallenstein Brothers in 1912 and the studio space leased back. In the 1930s Frank shifted the studio to smaller premises along Trafalgar Street.

Rose Frank was to manage the business until selling out and retiring in 1947, aged 82. Over her 61 years there had been many advances in the technology, particularly in printing, but the lens she had first used when she joined the Tyree studio was as good as ever. Frank had produced portraits of three generations of families, and 30 years after taking a photograph could still find the negative and make a good print. She claimed to have outlived all the businessmen who had premises in Trafalgar Street when she started with the Tyrees. For over 50 years Edith Young had been her loyal assistant.

An attractive, dark-haired woman, Rose Frank had never married and lived for many years with her older sister, Josephine, on Maitai Bank, Nelson. Art and music appear to have been her main interests. She died in Nelson on 6 October 1954, aged 89.

Her legacy was her collection of about 200,000 glass-plate negatives, mainly 10 by 8 inches, dating from the early days of settlement. It was based on the work of the Tyree brothers but incorporated negatives by other photographers, including herself. It had survived in her care housed safely in a concrete and brick strongroom at the rear of Hallensteins. In 1948 she sold about 1,100 negatives from the 1880s and 1890s to the Alexander Turnbull Library for £100; all but one were outdoor scenes. Just before her death she gave the rest to the Nelson Historical Society. These, together with some duplicate negatives from the Turnbull's collection, are now held in the Nelson Provincial Museum and form the basis of one of the largest photographic collections in New Zealand. Its importance lies in its portrayal of the development of the Nelson region, mainly through images of scenery and people. Concerned that her life and work had not been sufficiently recognised, local photographers and businesses contributed to a memorial headstone to Rose Frank, and this was erected in Wakapuaka cemetery, Nelson, in September 1991.

How to cite this page:

Hilary Stace. 'Frank, Rosaline Margaret', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3f11/frank-rosaline-margaret (accessed 19 November 2017)