Author(s): Simon Nathan
Czech miner, Joseph Divis, photographed life in New Zealand mining towns Blackball, Waiuta and Waihi, where he lived and worked between 1909 and 1935. Although something of an outsider, Divis loved this country. When he died in 1967 he was one of the last inhabitants of the ghost town of Waiuta, site of one of the richest gold-bearing quartz reefs in New Zealand. Divis used a magnesium flash to take some of the few high-quality photographs that exist of an underground gold mine and the way miners worked using only the light of a candle. But as well he recorded mining town life in Waiuta - family celebrations, processing the ore, school activities, the 1931 jubilee, and union meetings. Thanks to his graphic and sensitive work, we have an extraordinary record of the isolated and often dangerous life in some of our frontier communities - above the ground and deep beneath it - seen through the eyes of a miner.
SIMON NATHAN is a geologist and science historian with a fascination for the rocks and people of the West Coast region. Much of his career has been at GNS Science (where he is now an emeritus scientist), and he has been science editor for Te Ara, the online Encyclopedia of New Zealand. As well as technical publications, he has written biographies of several New Zealand scientists, most recently James Hector: Explorer, scientist, leader (2015).