The Tyree brothers, Fred (1867-1924) and William (1855-1924) were the sons of William Tyree, a shoemaker From Surrey, England, who emigrated to Otago, New Zealand in 1871.
William (senior) had a brother James who set up a photographic studio in Dunedin. It is probable that the younger William gained his photographic training from his uncle James.
The brothers were involved in gold exploration and engineering in Queenstown. William later moved to Nelson and, in 1878, began a photographic business in Trafalgar Street, earning an income taking “carte de visite” portraits. William was soon joined by his brother Fred, a trained pharmacist from Dunedin. With his job experience and the time spent with his photographer uncle, Fred had become a skilled photographer himself. Fred specialised in scenic images, but he also photographed many public events and townscapes. During the 1890s the brothers journeyed by horse and trap to every part of the Nelson Province capturing for posterity views, buildings and portraits of pioneers.
In 1892 the studio began evening limelight slide exhibitions, projecting the images from inside the studio onto the first floor window. The first shows celebrated the Nelson Province’s 50th Jubilee.
Rose Frank joined William and Fred at the studio in 1886. Later that year William moved to Sydney, Australia, and continued photography, although his real motive was to pursue his inventive interests. He began an engineering business producing acetylene gas generators, plus inventing precision spraying apparatus, an egg tester, a life saver and an apparatus for teaching writing, to name but a few, and took out patents on a variety of new and improved inventions. He returned to Nelson in 1897, continuing to introduce gadgets and inventions. He moved back to Sydney in 1910 to buy a photographic and then an engineering business, neither of which prospered.
In 1895 Rose Frank took over the management of the Tyree studio, working with Fred until 1889 when he moved to Takaka in Golden Bay, where he opened his own photographic business. The business never quite met expectations and, in 1893, he moved to Christchurch. Fred returned to Takaka in 1897, reviving his photographic business for two years before taking up farming and running the Collingwood Hotel. He finally settled into farming, but remained an avid photographer.
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In 1914 the studio was sold to Rose Frank, who continued to manage it, retaining the original name, until 1947.
Fred and William Tyree died in the same year, 1924, Fred in Takaka and William in Sydney. The Tyree brothers, together with Rose Frank, created an important historical legacy for the Nelson Province and New Zealand in general. The visual records they left provide us with a unique insight into the life and times of our past.
The Tyree Studio Collection (1882-1947) of approximately 105,000 images of studio portraits, civic occasions and scenic views has been in the care of the Nelson Provincial Museum since 1974. It also includes negatives, from other photographers, bought by the Tyree Studio.
This information was originally written for a Nelson City Council Heritage panel at the Grampians
Updated February 2021
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Further sources - Tyree Brothers
- Acetylene Gas (1897, April 12) Nelson Evening Mail, p.2
- Cleveland, L. (1979, Spring) The Tyrees: notes towards a critical assessment. Photoforum Supplement, pp.6-8
- Mr Tyree's photographic studio (1894, August 27) Nelson Evening Mail, p.2
- Nelson Provincial Museum and Library (1977) Nelson Historical Society Journal, 3(3), p.12
- Tyree collection is valuable historical record. (1958, September 27) Nelson Evening Mail.
- A Tyreean item (1895, August 21) Nelson Evening Mail, p.2
- Tyree's photographic studio (1903, November 7) Colonist, p. 1
- Tyree's studio (1913, March 19) Colonist, p.1
- Lash, M. (2010) Tyree, William - Biography', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand
- Nelson Provincial Museum: about the photographic collections [retrieved 28 July 2011]