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Donald J. McKay Photographic Collection

The Donald J. McKay photographic collection was donated by the photographer in 2017 and consists of about 40 000 individual negative frames.

Donald John McKay (b.1934) was brought up on the family farm in Le Bons Bay, Banks Peninsula. 

He began photographing when he went away to high school in Christchurch and joined the camera club.  After leaving Boys High in 1949 he returned home and launched into his photographic career.

This was his home until mid-1961 when he took a job as a medical photographer at Christchurch’s Burwood Hospital.

It was during this period, 1949-1961, that he was the Peninsula’s resident photographer, living at Le Bons Bay, doing a variety of jobs (as well as his photography), and generally being part of the community he grew up in.

This shows through in the rich social documentary value of the photographs. Don had insider status with the community, their trust.

This helps explain the engagement between subject and camera in his portraits, and the more candid pictures he was able to capture at social occasions.

Growing up on a farm also meant he understood rural life, and there are many valuable series documenting people at work.

The collection as a whole is broader than Banks Peninsula; the geographic range of Don’s photographs runs to Christchurch, Canterbury and the West Coast.

Throughout his career, Don carefully logged his photography in job books. These are valuable records of picture content and location.

The acquisition of this collection fills a major gap in the photographic record of Banks Peninsula life.