Here we look upon one of Christchurch’s beautiful public gardens which spans Durham Street and the River Avon. This photograph shows how carefully the city authorities went about landscaping the inner city banks of the River Avon to create a groomed English appearance. From the 1870’s, the city’s well laid out streets and picturesque public domains, parks and gardens earned it the title of being New Zealand’s Garden City.
The dynamics of the eight subjects or people in this photograph is interesting as they have been dispersed at a varying distances from the camera and are all doing something different.
The most noticeable central figure, a man dressed in a suit and bowler hat, dominates the photograph without engaging with the lens of the camera. He stands casually with his arms folded behind his back and facing away from the photographer. There are two children who sit near him – and we might assume they are his children – but their are no associations apart from him looking down on the boy who leans on his hand, as he peacefully watches the river.
A young pretty girl wearing an oversized straw hat lies propped up on one arm as she lies on the grassy bank. Although in a relaxed position, she has an air of confidence and bravado as she looks back at the camera. Perhaps she knows the photographer and feels very comfortable with the instructions she has been given to pose.
A mother stand under the weeping willow tree, holding her daughter who holds a little perambulator for her doll. They stare back at the photographer and wait for the exposure to be done.
The path disappears towards the distant left, towards Worcester Street bridge (constructed in 1885). Two subjects stand on the bridge looking back at the camera. The peaceful scene is topped off with a black and a white swan which slowly glide past.
Between the trees, we can just make out the Gas Company Building on the north corner of Worcester Street and Oxford Terrace. The building was designed by the Christchurch architectural firm, Collins and Harman and was erected in 1905. It was demolished in 1972.