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Whites Aviation: Book review

Back before the internet, Google Maps and the Street View function, there was White's Aviation aerial photography. 

And now, just in time for Christmas, a compelling coffee-table book has been created.

White's Aviation: Classic New Zealand Aerial Photography is packed full of over 200 images of New Zealand taken from the air; gathered together in one volume from the White's Aviation collection at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

The photographs of NZ towns, famous buildings, landmarks and events were taken between 1930 and  1970 and show a landscape sometimes still recognisable, and other times completely transformed from the ones we know today.

Sitting down to quickly glance through this book, I emerged from it an hour later absolutely amazed at how captivating it was.

The photographs document the length of New Zealand - from Twilight Beach 1959, at the northwestern tip of the North Island, right through to Stewart Island as it looked in 1955.

Each photo is a glimpse of how far NZ has come in the past few decades - you can see the Auckland Harbour Bridge being built; or Wellington circa 1958, before the Beehive even existed; or Whangamata in 1948, and then again in 1974, when the numbers of houses in the area has just exploded.

Carrying on down to the South Island there are aerial views of walkers on Franz Josef Glacier in 1935, the Benmore Power Station four years after it had been built, and the University of Otago as it looked in 1947.

Each photo has a brief caption explaining the location, year it was taken, and any brief history notes applicable to the scene. These add depth and context to the images - there is a photo of Te Anau taken in 1955, in which it is noted: "The glow-worm caves for which the town is now famous had been discovered by the Europeans only seven years earlier."

These brief notes really add to the reader's engagement with the scene - it makes the image all that more compelling.

But make no mistake. This book is not just for history buffs. Anybody with imagination, a natural curiosity about New Zealand's progress, or who've even just done a few road trips over the summers will find this collection fascinating.

I was wondering what to get my Dad for Christmas this year. After reading this book, I'm all sorted. I'm off to buy another copy this lunchtime... he's going to love it!

Rating: 9/10

White's Aviation: Classic New Zealand Aerial Photography
Author: Alexander Turnbull Library
Publisher: Random House NZ
RRP: $60.00
Available: Now!