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Gordon Burt

Gordon Burt was an enterprising and inventive commercial photographer, whose craftsmanship in the studio was without equal.

Christchurch-born and raised, Burt took up work with a photographer in 1915 after moving to Wellington and being declined enlistment for the First World War. He opened his own business in 1924.

At that time portraiture was the mainstay of professional photography in New Zealand, however, changes in the manufacturing of goods in the 1920s and 1930s created a huge demand for advertising photography, and Burt became involved in commercial illustrating, becoming one of Wellington's leading commercial photographers.

His innovative approach to photographing consumer items included techniques such as superimposition and other montage effects, winning him great respect from clients.

In the 1940s he developed a method of colour printing called Tru-Colour, one of the most successful methods of colour photography then available in New Zealand. Although Burt invested much time and money on the system, Tru-Colour was unable to compete with the products of larger international concerns.

At its peak, his studio employed upwards of 20 people, though by the time he retired around 1965 it had reduced to just three or four. Much of his competition came from former employees who had set up on their own or worked as in-house photographers for advertising agencies.

Burt died in 1968 and in 1970 a representative selection of approximately 2,500 glass and nitrate negatives from an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 were rescued from their storage in a building under notice of demolition, with exhibitions of the work following in 1979 and 1988.

Adapted by Andy Palmer from the DNZB biography by William Main

How to cite this page

Gordon Burt, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated